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19 Jan 2018 20:43
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  •   Home > News > Politics

    Plight of Manus refugees stirs up Senate

    Two separate motions passed the Senate on Tuesday calling on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to accept New Zealand's offer to resettle refugees from Manus.

    Labor and the Greens have used the Senate to call on the federal government to accept New Zealand's offer to resettle refugees now on Manus Island and Nauru.

    Two motions passed the upper house on Tuesday calling on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to approve the New Zealand proposal to take 150 refugees currently in Papua New Guinea.

    "This is a foul and bloody stain on Australia's national conscience," Greens senator Nick McKim told reporters of offshore processing arrangements.

    Senator McKim said PNG authorities on Monday entered the now-closed detention camp on Manus, where hundreds of men are barricaded and refusing to leave, and bored holes in water containers.

    Iranian refugee Behrouz Boochani confirmed the account, saying the Australian government was trying to force refugees to leave.

    "Yesterday the immigration (officers) came inside and demolished all of our tankers and rubbish bins so we don't have access to water anymore," he said in a video released by refugee advocates on Tuesday.

    Mr Turnbull said those urging people to stay at the centre were not helpful.

    "In terms of the people currently at the Manus RPC, they should comply with the lawful requirements of the government of Papua New Guinea," he said in Manila on Tuesday.

    "Those people whether they're in Australia or in PNG or anywhere else, who are encouraging them to defy the law of Papua New Guinea, are not helping."

    The Australian government has urged the men to move to alternative accommodation on the island which is equipped with water, power, food and medical services.

    Labor senator Doug Cameron said the opposition supported acceptance of the Trans-Tasman offer, on the condition measures to prevent NZ becoming a backdoor entrance to Australia were addressed.

    "Whether we support the Greens on the floor of parliament trying to make themselves a name is one thing," he said.

    "But we certainly do think Malcolm Turnbull should stand up against the extremists in his party and reach an arrangement with New Zealand."

    New Zealand, which accepts 750 refugees a year compared to Australia's intake of around 18,000, first made the offer in 2013, but it was declined by Labor and coalition governments.

    Crossbench senator Derryn Hinch said Australia should find a way to accept the renewed offer but only if refugees were prevented from entering Australia via NZ.

    "If there's some mechanism the government could bring in working with Prime Minister (Jacinda) Ardern to guarantee these people will not use New Zealand as a backdoor to come here then I could support it," Senator Hinch said.

    "In its current form, I can't."

    © 2018 NZN, NZCity

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