Amnesty International understands that four more people were due to arrive in Aotearoa New Zealand today after spending years in the Australian Government’s offshore detention regime in Nauru. It is welcome news, however a faster process is urgently needed for those who remain behind.
It is the second group of people to arrive in New Zealand under the resettlement deal between Australia and New Zealand, after the first six people from Nauru resettled last November.
“While we are thankful the New Zealand Government has stepped up to provide permanent solutions for people who have suffered in limbo for so many years in Australia’s offshore detention, the process is too slow,” said Amnesty International Australia refugee rights advisor Dr Graham Thom.
There are now only five months left to resettle the 150 people a year promised under the deal with New Zealand that the Australian Government finally accepted last March after nine years of delay.
Approximately 170 people remain offshore in Nauru and Papua New Guinea needing permanent resettlement, and about 1000 people who came to Australia from offshore detention for medical treatment are also eligible to go to New Zealand.
“We are aware that interviews are ongoing, but if people are on a pathway to permanent settlement why are they being left to suffer in the damaging conditions offshore, and there is also the question of what the government plans to do for those who are still trapped in limbo in Australia,” said Thom.
Offshore on Nauru, people have been held since 2013. As far back as 2016 Amnesty International highlighted in its report that the indefinite detention of people on Nauru amounts to torture under international law, and yet people are stilled trapped in need of a solution.
“The Australian Government’s offshore detention regime in Nauru and PNG has destroyed so many lives on those islands to the point where many people are now so broken they can’t make a decision for themselves and are bereft of hope,” said Zaki Haidari, Amnesty International Australia refugee rights campaigner.
“The new Australian Government has an opportunity to acknowledge the damage caused to refugees over many years by bringing them to Australia immediately and providing them with care so they can recover in Australia before going to New Zealand.
“It’s time to bring people to safety without further delay,” said Haidari.
In 2013, the New Zealand Government offered to resettle up to 150 people being held in the Australian detention system each year. The Amnesty International community tirelessly supported the call for the Australian Government to accept New Zealand’s offer. The Australian Government finally accepted the offer in March 2022.
There are still approximately 170 people offshore (75 in Australian Government-funded Nauru detention and 90 in PNG) still living in limbo whose physical and mental health needs are not being met. The Australian Government ended its offshore detention arrangement with PNG on 31 December 2021, essentially making the PNG Government responsible for those remaining. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and New Zealand are currently working together to see permanent solutions for those people who remain in PNG.