Tue, May 08, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Australia says hundreds likely stuck in camps

UNWANTED:Peter Dutton said Canberra is talking to others about taking asylum seekers held on Nauru and in Papua New Guinea, but few have shown interest

Reuters, Canberra

Hundreds of asylum seekers held in Australian-run detention centers in the Pacific are likely to remain there indefinitely as no other country is willing to resettle them, Australian Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton said yesterday.

Australia’s hardline immigration policy requires asylum seekers intercepted at sea trying to reach Australia to be sent for processing to three camps in Papua New Guinea and one on the South Pacific island of Nauru.

They are told they will never be settled in Australia.

As of March 31, there were 1,305 people in the camps, from various countries, including Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan and Iran.

“We continue to talk to third countries, but let me tell you, there are very few prospects, if any, on the horizon,” Dutton told reporters in Canberra, referring to the chances of the migrants being accepted by other nations.

About 250 people have left the camps for the US in recent months under a swap agreement which US President Donald Trump described as a “dumb deal.”

Under the agreement 1,250 of the migrants could be resettled in the US. In exchange, Australia accepted 30 Central American refugees late last year.

However, even if the US accepted the full quota, more than 300 people are likely to remain in the Pacific camps, in two impoverished countries with little ability to effectively integrate them.

However, asylum seeker advocates fear the US will not accept its full quota as Trump has vowed applicants would have to satisfy “extreme vetting.”

US processing has concentrated on individuals with applications that are seen as easier to verify through background checks and who come from counties with closer ties to the US.

The prospect of hundreds of people being left behind has fueled condemnation of Australia’s immigration law.

“There is no possibility of hundreds of refugees and asylum seekers to be resettled in PNG and Nauru,” said Ian Rintoul, a spokesman for the advocacy group Refugee Action Coalition.

“There are no services, no support, no jobs. They have no future,” he said.

In related news, Dutton said people smugglers are marketing New Zealand as a back door into Australia.

“Some people it seems have been told different stories about their destination,” Dutton said. “New Zealand is now being marketed as a definite destination.”

“People realize that New Zealand is a backdoor way into Australia, that New Zealand is a comparable society to Australia,” he said. “It has a similar welfare system, similar health, education offerings, housing, etc — it is marketed in the same way as Australia is as a positive destination.”

His comments came one day after Malaysia announced that last week it had stopped a modified tanker carrying more than 130 Sri Lankans believed to be heading for Australia and New Zealand off the coast of Johor state.

Travelers who arrive in New Zealand immediately qualify for an Australian visa.

Additional reporting by AP

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