Minister for Home Affairs Karen Andrews has confirmed for the first time that she is in negotiations about a resettlement deal for refugees who have been medically evacuated to Australia from offshore detention.
Andrews said on Wednesday she is working with her New Zealand counterpart to come to an agreement about resettlement options for these refugees who have been in limbo for years. New Zealand first offered to accept 150 refugees from offshore detention eight years ago. Jacinda Ardern has repeatedly confirmed the offer remains on the table, if Australia was willing to accept it.
“We’re doing all that we can to work through resettlement options for them,” Andrews told 4BC radio on Wednesday.
“We clearly want to do that as soon as we possibly can.
“We’ve made it very clear with New Zealand that there won’t be a backdoor way for these people to be able to go to New Zealand and then return to Australia.
“We’re working through those issues now and we will continue to do so, and of course we will continue to work with the United States about resettlement options there as well.”
New Australian Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews can end the suffering of 150 refugees, many who have spent as long as 8 years in offshore immigration detention, if she accepts New Zealand’s long standing resettlement offer. Let’s hope these reports are correct @HRW https://t.co/btN8BTYxNB— Sophie McNeill (@Sophiemcneill) June 2, 2021
As it stands, the federal government will not allow any refugees who arrived in Australia by boat to settle permanently in the country.
These comments from Andrews represent a departure from the federal government’s previous stance on the issue. Former Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton had flatly rejected the New Zealand option, arguing it would encourage boat arrivals and be considered a “back-door” option.
Around 200 people were brought to Australia from Manus Island and Nauru for medical care under the now repealed ‘medevac’ laws between February and December in 2019. More than 1200 people remain in limbo in on-shore detention – the government considers them “transitory persons”.
The confirmation from Andrews comes after Prime Minister Scott Morrison spent time in New Zealand in meetings with Jacinda Ardern this week.