New Zealand’s prime minister said his country was prepared to accept some asylum seekers Australia has sent to detention camps on impoverished Pacific island nations, though there appears to be little chance Australia will take up the offer.
The debate over whether New Zealand should take Australia’s unwanted asylum seekers, from the Middle East and Asia, comes amid uproar over what will happen to 267 asylum seekers who are expected to be transferred from Australia to the Pacific atoll of Nauru.
The issue of their fate was raised amid annual talks between Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and his visiting New Zealand counterpart John Key.
Australia refuses to allow any asylum seekers who try to reach the country’s shores by boat to ever settle in Australia, and sends them instead to detention camps on Nauru and Papua New Guinea.
The policy has virtually stopped asylum seekers from the Middle East and Asia attempting to reach Australia on rickety boats.
The 267 asylum seekers came from Nauru’s detention camp to Australia for medical treatment or to support a relative who needed treatment. They refused to return to Nauru pending an Australian High Court challenge to the legality of Australia’s refugee policy, but the court recently ruled against them, leaving them at risk of deportation.
Turnbull appeared to dismiss New Zealand’s offer, saying the government didn’t want to give people-smugglers “marketing opportunities” to recruit asylum-seekers to embark on the dangerous journey.
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