New Zealand to spend 2.7 million for Manus Island, Nauru refugees

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New Zealand Labour leader Jacinda Ardern
New Zealand Labour leader Jacinda Ardern speaks to the press after leader of New Zealand First party Winston Peters announced his support for her party in Wellington, New Zealand, October 19, 2017. Reuters/Charlotte Greenfield

New Zealand will give NZ$3 million (AU$2.7 million) to asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru, according to the country’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. The amount would be used to provide important services for asylum seekers and refugees as New Zealand puts pressure on Australia to accept an offer to resettle 150 people.

Ardern has announced the spend after a second conversation in two days with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. Australians are reportedly aware of the spend, and Ardern thinks they would not be embarrassed by her country stepping in to help with a solution. Instead, she said she imagined they would be pleased.

“We intend to work with Papua New Guinea and other agencies like the International Red Cross to financially support them with any additional needs that they may need to be met while those refugees remain on the island,” she said while in the Philippines. Around 400 refugees refuse to leave, despite food, water and power being cut.

Ardern said that a screening process could be quickly put in place if and when Australia accepted New Zealand’s offer. She assured that New Zealand officials will continue to work closely with Australian officials to ensure preparedness in the instance that Australia takes up the offer.

The UN's refugee agency has encouraged Australia to accept the bid to resettle refugees. New Zealand’s offer also gets solid support from within the parliament. On Tuesday, the Senate passed a motion calling on Turnbull to accept it.

Earlier this month, the Aussie leader turned down the refugee resettlement. He preferred to work through a current refugee swap agreement he negotiated with former United States President Barack Obama.

Up to 1,250 asylum seekers detained by Australia in Papua New Guinea and Nauru in the South Pacific could be resettled in the US under Turnbull’s deal with Obama. In return, Australia accepts refugees from Central America.

Bypass Australia

Papua New Guinea MP Charlie Benjamin told Radio New Zealand that the New Zealand government must bypass Australia and discuss its offer directly with the PNG government and the UN. Refugee Council for New Zealand’s Arif Saeid said Ardern has the “freedom” to do so.

“New Zealand is one of the signatories for the UN refugee convention and if Australia does not accept New Zealand’s offer, then New Zealand can and should go straight to PNG,” Saeid said, according to The Guardian. He added that Zealand has to intervene before anything horrible happens on Manus Island.