News ID: 204278
Published: 0344 GMT November 13, 2017

UN urges Australia to accept New Zealand's Manus refugees offer

UN urges Australia to accept New Zealand's Manus refugees offer

The United Nations refugee agency urged the Australian government to accept Jacinda Ardern's offer to take in 150 refugees as the Manus crisis continues.

Since the Manus Island detention center closed on October 31, hundreds of men barricaded themselves inside – protesting the push to move to the alternative accommodation due to safety fears, SBS News reported.

But the Papua New Guinea (PNG) government, police and defense force have continued their push to move refugees from the complex.

The UNHCR, who has people on the ground, told SBS News the alternative accommodation was not ready for the men to live in.

New Zealand’s newly elected Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern wants another meeting with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to discuss Australia's handling of refugees on Manus Island.

Papua New Guinea will delay by at least 24 hours a plan to forcibly evict hundreds of men from an abandoned Australian detention center, three asylum seekers said.

Protesters have clashed with police and guests at a fundraising event for former prime minister Tony Abbott.

Currently about 420 men still remain in the closed center where food, water and medical supplies have been cut off.

A court request to reinstate the services was denied and an appeal was lodged by the refugees' lawyer, but this has been pushed back to next week.

UNHCR deputy regional representative Nai Jit Lam told SBS News on Monday a solution to the refugee crisis was urgently needed.

"The most important thing for the refugees is a solution," he said, calling on Australia to accept New Zealand's offer to resettle 150 refugees from Manus Island and Nauru.

"This solution is very important because it's been offered... it's on the table and it's something that needs to be considered very seriously."

Lam also echoed the refugees' claims that their new accommodation – the East Lorengau Refugee Transit Center and the West Lorengau Haus – was incomplete, referring specifically to the West Lorengau Haus.

Refugees said last week officials destroyed self-made water tanks and shelter.

At the weekend a handful of the protesting men did choose to relocate to the alternative accommodation.

The refugees' lawyer, Ben Lomai – who took the case to court earlier this month – told SBS News he hoped PNG officials would continue their efforts to vacate the complex in "the humane way".

Lomai said the process was "playing around the human lives".

"I'm not happy because... the people on Manus are suffering right as we speak... by having to look at the legalities of forms and et cetera, it doesn't work well in the interests of everyone," he said.

New Zealand’s newly elected prime minister plans to repeat her offer to take 150 refugees when she meets Turnbull in the Philippines this week.

Liberal Democrats Senator David Leyonhjelm told reporters accepting New Zealand's offer would be "a fatal mistake".

"If these people are taken in by New Zealand it will effectively be a backdoor into Australia," he said.

Turnbull previously turned down Ardern's offer – placing preference on a refugee deal with the United States instead.


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