Immigration

Labor, coalition unite on Philippines asylum seeker deal

Philippine President Benigno Aquino III. Source: AAP

The federal government will continue talks to re-settle asylum seekers in the Philippines after Labor gave its bipartisan support for the negotiations.

Labor has given bipartisan support for the Turnbull government to continue talks with the Philippines on an asylum-seeker deal.

The government has been negotiating with the Philippines for a number of months to permanently resettle refugees processed on Nauru and Manus Island.

Human rights advocates say any deal would be wrong because the Philippines is a nation of 100 million people, roughly one quarter of whom live in deep poverty.

Philippines President Benigno Aquino told reporters his country did not have the "capacity at this point in time" to permanently resettle refugees.

He said his country wanted to help Australia and was "seriously considering" an agreement, but would only allow refugees to transit from the Philippines to another country.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten told reporters in Sydney on Wednesday the government should continue to engage with some of Asia's largest nations including the Philippines.

"I don't think Australia should give up," he said.

"To me, the government needs to redouble its efforts with Thailand, with Malaysia and Indonesia, with the Philippines."

He said the coalition had squandered an opportunity to work with the former Labor government on legislating an agreement with Malaysia.

Australia already has a refugee resettlement deal with Cambodia, at a cost of $55 million, but so far only four refugees on Nauru have opted to go.

It's been reported the Australian government has offered the Philippines $150 million to service resettled refugees, however the details of the deal have not been released.

A spokeswoman for Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop told AAP the discussions were ongoing.

"Most recently, these issues were discussed at a meeting between Ms Bishop and her counterpart, Secretary Mr Albert del Rosario, in the margins of the UN General Assembly in New York."

Australian Greens spokeswoman Sarah Hanson-Young said the government should ditch the "absurd" policy of dumping people throughout the Pacific.

"The families locked up on Nauru need a safe place to call home and they won't find that in Cambodia or the Philippines," Senator Hanson-Young said in a statement.

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