New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has quashed reports that her offer to take scores of asylum seekers from the Australian government has created a surge of people smuggling boats heading for New Zealand’s shores.
A report yesterday in the Australian newspaper claimed that at least three boats intercepted in Australian waters recently were attempting to get to Australia via its “back door” — New Zealand.
The apparent increase in boats heading to New Zealand was allegedly in response to the government’s offer to settle 150 of Australia’s asylum seekers housed in off-shore detention centers such as Manus Island.
The offer was first made to the Australian government by then-New Zeland prime minister John Key in 2013, and demonstrates no shift in refugee or immigration policy for either government.
Ardern yesterday condemned people smugglers as “parasites” who used “propaganda” to target vulnerable people for monetary gain, and said her government was working alongside Australia to tackle smugglers who were risking people’s lives.
“I don’t want to comment on specific intelligence briefings or reports, but what I am happy to say, as I have done before, is that chatter amongst people smugglers has ebbed and flowed for many, many years,” she said.
“I am advised that none of the activity that we’ve seen in recent times is unusual,” she added
New Zealand shadow foreign affairs spokesperson Gerry Brownlee said the prime minister should take more care with her remarks to Australia, as her “ill-advised interference” had caused a spike of interest in New Zealand and she had demonstrated a “disregard to the complexity of the problem.”
In November, Ardern restated her offer when she visited Australia to speak with then-Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull.
During that visit Turnbull again rejected New Zealand’s offer, saying his government was “not taking it up at this time.”
However, he left the door open for a future agreement, saying the government would consider the deal once it had completed the ongoing transfer of refugees to the US.
Dozens of refugees held for years in Australia’s remote Pacific detention camps yesterday departed for resettlement in the US, asylum seeker advocates said.
The Sydney-based Refugee Action Coalition said that 40 men flew out from Papua New Guinea’s capital, Port Moresby, under a deal struck by Australia with former US president Barack Obama, but bitterly criticized by his successor, Donald Trump.
“It was a bitter-sweet moment for the refugees — who on the one hand, are happy to be gaining the freedom that Australia denied them more than four years ago; but on the other, they remain extremely concerned for those that are being left behind,” the advocacy group said in a statement.
The refugees, from camps on Manus Island, flew to Manila, from where they will fly on to the US in different groups in the coming weeks before being resettled across the country, it said.
The group released photos showing the refugees lining up before dawn to get on buses for the airport, then waiting at the gate to board their flight to Manila.
Another 18 men were due to leave Port Moresby in the coming weeks, it said.
Australian and US immigration authorities did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the refugees’ movements.
Japan said it opposed changes to the G7 nations as it pushed back against a reform plan by US President Donald Trump that would have rival South Korea this year join in an expanded meeting. Tokyo has told the US it stands against South Korea’s participation on the grounds of differences in policy on China and North Korea, Kyodo News reported this weekend, citing more than one source related to Japanese and US diplomacy. Japan also wants to maintain its status as the only Asian country in the group, the news agency added. Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga yesterday told reporters that
The onset of summer has sparked a rise in incidents of “mask rage” in South Korea as more hot and bothered commuters either refuse to wear face coverings or leave parts of their faces exposed. In South Korea, Japan and other countries in East Asia, widespread mask wearing has been cited as one possible explanation for the region’s relative success in bringing the COVID-19 pandemic under control. South Korea, one of the first countries outside China to be affected by the virus, flattened the coronavirus curve in April, although it is now struggling with dozens of daily cases, mainly in and around
‘WOULD NOT COMPLY’: The company’s user data are kept in Singapore and it would not turn the data over to Beijing even if asked, TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer said Social media app TikTok has distanced itself from Beijing after India banned 59 Chinese apps in the country, according to a correspondence seen by Reuters. In a letter to the Indian government dated on Sunday last week and seen by Reuters on Friday, TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer said the Chinese government has never requested user data, nor would the company turn it over if asked. TikTok, which is not available in China, is owned by China’s ByteDance, but has sought to distance itself from its Chinese roots to appeal to a global audience. Along with 58 other Chinese apps, including Tencent
PLAYING THE VICTIM? A Chinese spokesman sent a statement to Australian media saying that Beijing had ‘irrefutable’ evidence of Canberra’s widescale espionage Australia yesterday unveiled the “largest-ever” boost in cybersecurity spending, days after Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison spoke out about a wave of state-sponsored attacks suspected to have been carried out by China. Morrison and government officials said the country would spend an additional A$1.35 billion (US$928 million) on cybersecurity, about a 10 percent hike, taking the budget for the next decade to A$15 billion. The largest chunk of the new money would help create 500 jobs within the Australian Signals Directorate, the government’s communications intelligence agency. Morrison on June 19 said that a “state-based actor” was targeting a host of