Australia's border policy 'has not changed' after reaching resettlement deal with New Zealand

Up to 150 refugees from Australia's existing regional processing cohort will be resettled in New Zealand each year for three years.

Minister for Home Affairs Karen Andrews

Minister for Home Affairs Karen Andrews Source: AAP

Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said people who arrive illegally by boat will "never, ever" resettle in Australia after announcing a new refugee deal with New Zealand.

Ms Andrews said New Zealand will resettle up to 150 refugees per year for three years, a total of 450 refugees, from Australia’s existing regional processing cohort.

But she remained firm that the Coalition's strict policy on border protection has not changed.

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"This arrangement will not apply to anyone who attempts any illegal maritime arrival or journey to Australia in the future," she told reporters on Thursday.

"Anyone who is part of the resettlement arrangement with New Zealand will not be able to come to Australia permanently, will not be able to become a citizen of Australia and will not be able to stay here on a permanent basis."

The announcement was jointly made with New Zealand's Minister for Immigration Kris Faafoi, who worked with the Australian government on the deal.

He said: "A lot of issues had to be negotiated ... but the important thing is that this agreement has now been reached, it has now been finalised and we will proceed immediately to operationalise this agreement."

The refugees initially considered for resettlement will include those:
  • In Nauru or who are temporarily in Australia under regional processing arrangements;
  • Meet New Zealand’s Refugee Quota Programme requirements;
  • Are referred to New Zealand by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR);
  • And are not engaged in other third-country resettlement pathways.
Mr Faafoi said New Zealand is "very pleased" Australia has taken up his country's offer.

"New Zealand has a long and proud history of refugee resettlement and this arrangement is another example of how we are fulfilling our humanitarian international commitment," he said.

"We are pleased to be able to provide resettlement outcomes for refugees who would otherwise have continued to face uncertain futures."
New Zealand Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi.
New Zealand Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi. Credit: Hagen Hopkins / Getty
The UNHCR's regional representative for Australia and New Zealand, Adrian Edwards, said he is "glad" that a resettlement deal has been reached.

"For the refugees and asylum seekers, the prolonged uncertainty of their situation has taken an enormous toll. Our hope is that through this arrangement as many as possible will find a solution to their plights and be supported on the path to recovery," Mr Edwards said.

But he has stressed his concern that the arrangement between Australia and its Tasman neighbour only covers 450 refugees - leaving approximately some 1,212 refugees and asylum seekers in Australia and Nauru in limbo.

UNHCR also confirmed it is not a party to the arrangement and recognised that the program between Australia and New Zealand does not include those refugees and asylum seekers who remain in Papua New Guinea.
As a result, UNHCR and New Zealand have agreed to work separately to process referrals for eligible individuals in Papua New Guinea in an independent arrangement.

The news was also welcomed by CEO of the Refugee Council of Australia, Paul Power, who said that these 450 available places will make a "life-changing difference ... [to people] who have so far endured nine excruciating years" in Australia.

"Today’s announcement will be welcomed by millions of Australians distressed by their government’s appalling mistreatment of refugees sent to detention in Nauru and Manus Island and disgusted by Australia’s previous refusal to accept New Zealand’s help," Mr Power said.

According to the Refugee Council of Australia, 1,384 refugees and asylum seekers remain in limbo. Some 1,168 of them are in Australia, 112 in Nauru and 104 in Papua New Guinea.

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4 min read
Published 24 March 2022 at 1:30pm, updated 24 March 2022 at 6:34pm
By Rayane Tamer
Source: SBS News