Refugee advocates in New Zealand and beyond are urging the new Labour government to bypass talks with Australia to resolve the escalating humanitarian crisis on Manus Island.
Prime minister Jacinda Ardern has offered to take 150 of the 400 refugees and asylum seekers who have barricaded themselves in an abandoned detention centre on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea. The men are living in squalor without power, sanitation facilities or medical treatment, but say they fear for their safety in PNG if they were to leave.
One week ago Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull refused New Zealand’s offer, and the situation continues to deteriorate, with Amnesty International reporting 90 men are now sick.
Ardern said she intended to press Turnbull to accept New Zealand’s offer this week at their meeting in Manila, as direct talks with Australia were the “fastest route” to resolve the crisis.
“We made the offer because we saw a great need. No matter what label you put on it there is the absolute need and there is harm being done,” Ardern said at the weekend at the Apec summit in Vietnam.
“I see the human face of this and I see the need and the role New Zealand needs to play. I think it’s clear that we don’t see what’s happening there as acceptable, that’s why the offer’s there.”
By Tuesday, the two leaders had not held formal talks on the issue.
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