Immigration

Border Force pressuring Nauru refugees to separate from their families: report

Home Affairs minister Peter Dutton said the people of Melbourne are scared to go out at night in response to reports of African gang violence. Source: AAP

Australian Border Force officials are encouraging refugees on Nauru to split with their families in order to be resettled in the US.

Refugees being held on Nauru are being encouraged to sever ties with family members in Australia when applying for resettlement in the United States, prompting an angry response from parliamentarians.

But Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has defended the direction, pointing out only those held in offshore detention can be considered under the US deal.

Recordings of phone conversations and an email chain obtained by The Guardian, detail Australian Border Force encouraging refugees on Nauru to permanently separate from family members in Australia.

Greens leader Richard Di Natale accused the Turnbull government of flouting international laws.

"We're talking about tearing apart families here," Senator Di Natale said on Wednesday.

"These are people who are already traumatised, people who have fled violence and persecution, people who have been locked up indefinitely and now the government wants to kick them while they're down."

One case involves a woman flown from Nauru to Australia for medical treatment, who then took legal action to prevent her return and gave birth to a child while in Australia.

Her husband remains on Nauru, where United States officials have been vetting refugees for potential resettlement.

Border force officials have informed the man he can separate from his wife and relinquish rights to his daughter in order to apply for resettlement.

Alternatively, he could bring his family held in detention in Brisbane, to Nauru with no guarantee of being resettled.

"It was the reality for people on Nauru, from the government, that if people left and kept to Australia then consideration of their file would be suspended until they return back to Nauru," Mr Dutton said.

The government has offered to meet the costs of the woman's return to Nauru to reunite the family.

A US resettlement deal struck between former president Barack Obama and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull provided a possible path out of detention for refugees detained offshore.

The US has reportedly preferred to resettle single people rather than families.

The UN Refugee Agency recognises the integrity of the refugee family is both a legal right and a humanitarian principle.

Mr Dutton is hopeful more refugees being held in offshore detention will be resettled in the US before Christmas, on top of the 54 who have already departed.

"I am hoping they can be an uplift as soon as possible, but that is an issue for the United States," he said.

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