The NZ government says it can't take in refugees being held on Nauru because the Australian government hasn't taken up an offer for to resettle them.
A group of refugees fed up with being held in Australia's offshore detention centre on Nauru want the New Zealand government to take them in.
But they are unlikely to end up on Kiwi shores because of the Australian government's decision not to take up New Zealand's offer to resettle up to 150 refugees each year from offshore processing centres.
The 28 refugees have pleaded their case in a letter to New Zealand Prime Minister John Key and Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse, which the NZ government has confirmed it received last week.
In the letter, published on The Guardian website, the refugees call on New Zealand to "honour" the deal struck between Mr Key and then-Australian prime minister Julia Gillard in 2013.
"Will you honour the deal with Australia and issue us with visas for New Zealand to travel and allow us to permanently settle in your country which can offer us genuine safety and protection," the letter said.
"We only want to build a future for ourselves and our families in a just and safe society and a country that upholds human right (sic)."
The agreement to resettle refugees in New Zealand from Australia's offshore processing centres came into effect in 2014 and remains in place.
But to date, the Australian government hasn't taken that up and the places have since been reallocated to refugees from Syria.
"It is for Australia to take up the offer to utilise the up to 150 places and to date they have not done so," a spokeswoman for Mr Woodhouse said in a statement.
"As such, the places are reallocated to the annual quota, and most recently the places were given to Syrian refugees."