New Zealand wants to discourage boat people arriving unannounced to swell its immigration stream and is preparing regulations that would send them to controversial Australian detention centres in Papua New Guinea and Nauru.
The move would be to dissuade potential asylum seekers from making the journey to New Zealand, Prime Minister John Key said. He said he had heard just before Christmas about a boatload planning to leave Indonesia with hundreds on board.
That departure was forestalled, but the Australian Government has said it would monitor any others trying to cross the Tasman.
In a complementary move, arrangement with Australian PM Julia Gillard, Mr Key announced NZ would take 150 asylum seekers from Australian detention centres each year. That would put the refugees intake via Australia at 750, the balance coming from the UN framework.
“I wanted to do this, I think it’s the right thing to do . . . my view is that we are helping our mates,” Mr Key said.
He saw it as involving no cost to New Zealand, but addressing a regional problem. The 150 NZ committed to were not queue jumpers and must meet the same criteria as other refugees, he said.
The deal would also allow New Zealand to send any boat people who arrived to be processed in Australian centres, including those in Papua New Guinea and Nauru.
Earlier this year officials from the United Nations refugee agency were critical after visiting the centre on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea. They described the living conditions as inadequate and said children should not be sent there.
Mr Key discussed the quality of the camps with Ms Gillard and she was “extremely confident” that they met world standards. “They reject the proposition theirs are not up to international standard.”
Mr Key said New Zealand’s Mangere detention centre was being upgraded but would not be suitable for mass, long-term detention. The hope is Australia’s offshore detention centres will serve as a deterrent to illegal arrivals.
— Murray Burt