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New Zealand’s offer to resettle 150 offshore refugees a year never taken up

January 11, 2016 | theguardian

Refugees on Nauru plead with the NZ prime minister, John Key, to be resettled but its immigration minister says the decision is up to Australia

The Nauru detention centre from which 28 refugees have written to the NZ government seeking resettlement.
 The Nauru detention centre from which 28 refugees have written to the NZ government seeking resettlement.

A two-year-old offer from New Zealand to resettle 150 refugees a year from Australia’s offshore detention centres remains untouched by a reluctant Australian government, despite a public plea from people on Nauru.

The New Zealand government has since reallocated this year’s places to Syrian refugees but says the offer remains part of its official immigration policy and open to the Australian government.

Last week 28 refugees on Nauru wrote to the New Zealand prime minister, John Key, asking to be resettled in that country under the Australia-New Zealand agreement.

The refugees have been found to have a well-founded fear of persecution in their homelands but have been offered only temporary residence in Nauru.

“Australia will not accept us despite us asking them for safety,” the handwritten letter, signed and affixed with the refugees’ boat numbers, says.

“They gave us to the Nauru government and told us we were now their responsibility. Nauru has not given us, and does not have the means to give us, permanent protection and safety.

“After 30 months in mouldy tents and now in the community where we are not accepted, some of us now have travel papers which give us the freedom to leave.”

In response to the letter, New Zealand’s immigration minister, Michael Woodhouse, said it was up to Australia to resettle people from its offshore detention camps and that New Zealand remained willing to assist.

“It is for Australia to take up the offer to utilise the up to 150 places and to date they have not done so,” he said. “As such, the places are reallocated to the annual quota and most recently the places were given to Syrian refugees.”

In a deal brokered between prime ministers Key and Julia Gillard in 2013, New Zealand agreed to accept 150 refugees from Australia’s offshore processing centres each year from 2014-15.

The quota remains in New Zealand’s forward planning for humanitarian resettlement.

But when the former Australian prime minister, Tony Abbott, was elected he effectively scrapped the deal at the Australian end, saying it would be called upon only “if and when it becomes necessary”.

“Our determination is to stop the boats and one of the ways that we stop the boats is by making it absolutely crystal clear that if you come to Australia illegally by boat you go not to New Zealand but to Nauru or Manus and you never ever come to Australia,” he said.

The Coalition government is loath to have refugees resettled in New Zealand as it is seen as undermining a fundamental tenet of the policy: that boat-borne asylum seekers will never be settled in Australia.

Refugees resettled in New Zealand can apply to become citizens after five years. New Zealand citizenship would give those people the right to travel and work in Australia.

The prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, said he believed resettlement in New Zealand would be an incentive for asylum seekers to board boats.

“I think an outcome like that could … result in creating incentives for people smugglers to get back into business,” he said.

Some refugees on Nauru have recently been granted travel documents, which would allow them to travel to another country that was willing to admit them. The visa to live in Nauru expires in five years.

Nauruan officials maintain that all refugees must ultimately be resettled in another country.

So far, 815 people have been granted refugee status on the island, including, it is understood, about 80 children. They are living in the detention centre or in the Nauruan community.

A further 543 people, including 70 children, remain in the detention centre awaiting a refugee status determination.

After Nauru and Manus Island’s first iterations as Australian immigration detention facilities – under the “Pacific Solution” between 2001 and 2008 – 705 people from those centres were resettled in Australia and 401 in New Zealand. Far smaller numbers were resettled in Sweden, Canada, Denmark and Norway.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2016/jan/11/new-zealands-offer-to-take-150-offshore-refugees-a-year-never-taken-up

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The Tampa children reflect on their rescue 12 years on

August 31, 2013

Tampa children 1

In the meantime, the Tampa families set up their lives in their new green home.

TAHIRA Hossaini couldn’t swim. A hole of deep blue water gaped between two ships. In her young mind, she felt like she might be swallowed up.

One hand of a Tampa sailor held her from behind. A man in army greens aboard the HMAS Manoora reached across, coaxing her to step. Her mum and dad were behind her somewhere, but if she slipped they couldn’t save her from back there, she thought. She would disappear forever.

It is etched deep in her mind, there with the memory of the wooden boat and nowhere to sit, overcrowded and dirty. A broken engine, stricken in the middle of the ocean. The hunger, illness from four days adrift and fear that each swell might roll them over. Their boat was built for less than half the 438 who had left Indonesia in the dark. Hazara mothers cried that they’d swapped danger at home in Afghanistan for a grave in the sea.

Twelve years on, Tahira smiles beside her best friend, Huria Rahimi, on campus at the University of Auckland. Tahira is doing a double major in psychology and social science for public health; Huria is studying optometry.

They first met in the lounge of an Indonesian hotel. Two seven-year-old girls looking after little brothers, fighting over whose turn it was to sit on an old rocking chair.

They and their families were en route to Christmas Island. They were rescued by the Norwegian container ship the Tampa. Lawyers fought for them in the Australian court. Politicians argued to keep them out of the country.

Two weeks after their rescue, as planes crashed into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, these faceless, nameless boat-people turned from troublesome “queue jumpers” into potential terrorists.

But New Zealand took the children and their families when Australia would not.

The Tampa affair was the start of Australia’s debate over asylum seekers arriving by boat.

For 12 years, the argument has grumbled with each new batch of boats, getting louder again as another federal election looms.

Theirs are typical migrant stories. The parents settled and worked hard, they learned trades, they set up businesses. And the children went to school, hit the books and grew up, like the rest of us. They are university students, engineers, nurses. One is an airline pilot. They are patriotic Kiwis grateful for their new lives.

They are the children Australia didn’t want.

WESTERN women would sell baby products in slick ads on Afghan TV. They’d flounce about, their hair glinting at the Muslim wives watching from their cramped houses. One room for an entire family.

Hazara girls would barely be allowed to leave the house for fear of being caught up in violence. The boys were lucky if they had a safe school to attend, which was academic rather than religious. Uncles died defending their towns from the Taliban.

Huria remembers the weirdest things about her journey. She remembers stepping on to the solid land at Nauru. These previously landlocked people had been at sea for nearly a month. Five days on their broken little boat. Nine days on the Tampa. Fifteen days on the HMAS Manoora.

Her seven-year-old eyes caught her first glimpse of the Western World: “It’s a bit random, but I felt like I’d stepped into a TV commercial. Women with long blonde hair, who weren’t wearing a hijab – it was so foreign and incredible.”

For the children it was an adventure; for the adults it was a flight from oppression.

Tampa survivors 2

But one of the men on board the boat, who became a leader in the chaotic game of musical boats, Shahwali Basiri, remembers the anguish well. He is quietly spoken. He gathers together the Tampa children for a photograph on a wet Auckland Sunday afternoon.

His community meets at the mosque on weekends. He’s proud of how well they’ve all done. Polite, chatty, modest, articulate young Kiwi Hazara people.

The Indonesian people-smugglers loaded the families on board their boat first. Shahwali didn’t know how many more would step on after them. (Asians in Pakistan had sold them the idea of Australia soon after they fled Afghanistan hidden under blankets in a truck.)

“When I saw how many people there were, I told my brother: ‘The boat is too small. Do we go with them or do we walk away?’ We decided we had no choice because if we didn’t take this boat, the next would be the same,” he says. “We’d be stuck.”

Shahwali trained to become a mechanic when he arrived in Auckland. Other parents set up import businesses. Some sell opulent carpets from Asia and the Middle East. They cover almost every floor in Shawali’s home. He’s glad of the opportunities now but for days on the sea he wondered if they’d all die.

He remembers the loud bang when the little boat’s engine broke, just 24 hours after leaving a quiet Indonesian port. They were supposed to be at Christmas Island within two days of sailing. The steady thrum of the engine had stopped.

The silence after the bang was sickening. He went to the captain’s cabin and they took a torch down to the guts of the boat. The eight-cylinder engine was too powerful for the wooden chassis.

A shaft had snapped clean in half. There was nothing to do but wait and pray.

Their prayers were answered in the form of Arne Rinnan, the Tampa captain. He visited them in Auckland from Norway a year later.

Tampa captain Arne Rinnan

The captain of the MS Tampa, Arne Rinnan, gives a thumbs up against the backdrop of his ship in Sydney.

Shahwali’s son has a yellowing clipping from a paper with a photo of Rinnan, who kept his promise to protect them. He looks at it often, to silently thank the angel who saved them.

EVERY night Hadi Basiri Skypes his Afghani fiancee. He fell in love with her four years ago on a return visit to his home town.

He returned this year for three weeks and proposed. He pulls out his smart phone and swipes proudly through photographs of his exotic wife-to-be.

“That’s her,” he says. He asks the photographer to take some extra pictures – thoughtful, serious ones of him to send her. Love at a distance is tough. No date has been set. He needs to get a job and set himself up before they will marry.

One wedding in Afghanistan, one in New Zealand. Shahwali is proud of his handsome sons.

Hadi is working on a final-year project for his civil engineering degree. It’s an overhaul of a dangerous Auckland intersection which he hopes will be taken up by the road authority.

He remembers the trip from Afghanistan well. Ten at the time, he recalls leaving his friends behind. And his soccer ball. Two changes of clothes were all he could take.

He got another ball in New Zealand and went on to represent Auckland in the inter-city squad. Now his attention is on serious things, like study and work.

Some of the Tampa boys, older teens at the time, unaccompanied by family on the boat, played rugby league. They embraced the local code.

From his dad’s house in a new suburb overlooking Auckland’s city lights he describes the elation seeing the Tampa, a red dot at first, growing as it glided towards them from the horizon.

In short months, they’d gone from fleeing, to stealth mode (in Indonesia, their code word for Australia was “Auntie’s house”), to anticipation, then despair.

Since the day after the engine broke, Australian border control planes had swept over three times, twice a day. They could see the looks on the pilots’ faces, but for three days nobody came to help them.

They had connected their clothes together to form an “S-O-S” on the deck. The little girls remember being rustled up to wave on top when the planes flew over. To show the pilots there were little kids on board.

“We thought we were going to die out there,” Hadi says. “When the Tampaarrived to get us, it was the best moment of my life.”

The Tampa had a crew of 30. They would make the little girls squeal with laughter playing tricks on them that didn’t need a common language. It was cramped, they slept on flattened cardboard boxes and food was limited. But they weren’t going to drown.

Nadi remembers Australian special forces one day falling from the sky and scaling the side of the Tampa.

They appeared on board with AK-47s, expecting a volatile rabble of Afghani desperates. They put the guns away when they saw the passengers were weak, hungry and unarmed. They were no threat.

The Howard Government refused for days to allow the Tampa into Australian waters. It circled Christmas Island, on the starboard side.

None of the Afghanis could see land. The only view they had was out to sea on the port side. Shahwali and his brother’s family were the first to go aboard the HMAS Manoora.

They feared being sent home. Other families followed them. Hadi remembers his dad’s concern. Things worked out well for him and his family. But when he has visited Afghanistan, people ask him whether the ordeal was worth it.

Hadi is hesitant. The trip could have killed him and his family. “We have a good life now. A safe one. But nobody should put themselves in danger like that.”

THE Tampa crew lifted the children first up a three-storey vertical ladder on the side of the container ship.

Sakina Awazi was small even for seven. She had the standard “mushroom” cut that Hazara mums would give their little girls.

She and her friends gently mock the hairdo. “We had Lego hair!” they laugh.

She was the third to stand on the container ship’s deck. Solid ground after days of swaying. But she felt afraid.

“I was standing so far up above, looking down on the rest of my family and feeling very alone. I was so scared,” she recalls. She was among strangers. Her parents were still back on the wooden boat.

Sakina watched as each new person came aboard, hoping it would be her mum.

It felt like hours she stood and waited. It probably was. Her father and uncle were the 437th and 438th to come aboard. Until then, nobody had counted the human cargo. They were stunned.

Sakina is 19 now. She is in her first year of a degree in visual arts at Auckland’s Unitec. She wants to be a photojournalist. She speaks Farsi at home with her family and breaks into it occasionally, excited chatter with her friends. She wears modest western clothes, with a headscarf. Maybe one day she will fall in love with a Hazara man and marry.

But Sakina is a Kiwi at heart. You’d find none so staunchly patriotic. Her English consonants are blunted with the Kiwi neutral. She is a mad All Blacks fan – watches every game on TV and hopes to be in the crowd one day to cheer her team on. This young woman bears a small grudge against Australia for leaving them all at sea. It’s a feeling that, if shared by the others, they aren’t saying so.

Sakina loved seeing her team beat the Aussies in the Bledisloe Cup. “Satisfying,” she says wryly.

Family who have settled in Australia since that time encourage her to visit, to come over and live when she’s older and has her degree.

They think there are better job opportunities. That life is better in Australia.

“But I’ll never live in Australia. They rejected us when they shouldn’t have,” she says. “I feel like I’d be breaking a promise to New Zealand if I went. This is my home now.”

Source: http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/the-tampa-children-reflect-on-their-rescue-12-years-on/story-fni0fiyv-1226708300676

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NZ to the rescue of asylum seekers

February 08, 2013

NEW Zealand is believed to have agreed to take up to 150 asylum seekers from Australia’s overcrowded detention centres in a deal which will see the country once again come to the federal government’s rescue.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard and her NZ counterpart John Key are expected to make the announcement today at a formal leaders meeting in Queenstown. The announcement is expected to contain an agreement to take the overflow from detention centres on Nauru and Manus Island.

Sources confirmed that Australian and NZ officials had been working on an agreement for some time, with an initial arrangement that New Zealand would take a maximum of 200 asylum seekers.

The last time the country took refugees or asylum seekers heading for Australia was during the Howard-era, when it agreed to take refugees from Nauru after they had been processed.

It is unclear whether Australia will still bear the cost of refugee processing before they are resettled in NZ.

Asylum seekers at both centres have recently staged protests about their living conditions.

Ms Gillard arrived in Queenstown late yesterday for the annual leaders meeting.

She confirmed that asylum seekers would be discussed this morning but would not go into detail about the discussions.

Mr Key confirmed an announcement would be made following the meeting.

Under the Howard government’s Pacific solution, New Zealand agreed to take hundreds of asylum seekers heading to Australia, and later confirmed to be genuine refugees.

But the new agreement is likely to stir debate in New Zealand, where the opposition has previously objected to Australia’s idea of a “regional solution” for the issue.s

It had taken issue with to original East Timor solution.

Previously the Gillard Government had claimed that a problem with re-opening processing at Nauru was that no other third country would participate in settling refugees.Despite early signs of success by former Immigration Minister Chris Bowen in slowing the number of arrivals from Sri Lanka – many deemed by immigration officials to be economic refugees, boat arrivals have again started to rise.

It is unknown whether the Australian Government offered anything to NZ in return.

Mr Key yesterday did, however, say he hoped that the Australian Government would eventually back down on its refusal to offer welfare rights to 100,000 NZ citizens living in Australia.

NZ grants Australians the same rights as its own citizens. But Mr Key said it would be “spiteful” for NZ to cut these rights simply because they were not reciprocated by Australia.

Source: http://www.news.com.au/national/nz-to-the-rescue-of-asylum-seekers/story-fndo4bst-1226573926503

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NZ toughens up asylum-seeker policy with review of refugee status

May 01, 2012

THE New Zealand government has announced it plans to bolster its border protection policy by reassessing the refugee status of all asylum-seekers after they have been in the country for three years.

The announcement by Immigration Minister Nathan Guy was immediately seized on last night by the Coalition, who declared that the policy shift from our nearest neighbour was tantamount to the introduction of temporary protection visas.

In a statement, Mr Guy referred to the fact that 10 Chinese nationals had earlier this month contemplated embarking on a dangerous boat journey from Darwin across the Tasman because they believed they could have their refugee claims processed in NZ without being detained.

“The recent events in Darwin show that New Zealand is a target for dangerous and illegal mass arrivals by boat. We need to be prepared,” Mr Guy said in the statement.

Rec Coverage 28 Day pass

“This legislation is not about punishing people with a genuine claim for refugee status. It’s about sending a strong message that queue jumpers won’t be tolerated, and people-smugglers will not be rewarded.”

The changes to be introduced into parliament mean an asylum-seeker’s refugee status would be reassessed three years after it is first determined, with permanent residence not granted unless this reassessment is approved.

The rules around family reunions would also be tightened up, so those who do gain residence can sponsor only their immediate family members.

The opposition’s immigration spokesman Scott Morrison last night said the Gillard government should learn from its Tasman cousins and restore the policies of the Howard government, including temporary protection visas and the Pacific Solution.

“The New Zealand Prime Minister has taken action after one boat that didn’t even make it to New Zealand,” Mr Morrison told The Australian last night.

“And Julia Gillard still refuses to take action after 301 boats and remains in stubborn denial.

“The government’s denial in temporary protection visas denies policy gravity,” he said.

A government spokesman last night hit back at the opposition, saying if they were so confident of temporary protection visas they should not have rejected an independent inquiry into their effectiveness.

“We know that TPVs did not work, with the overwhelming majority of people on them ending up as permanent Australian residents — that’s hardly a deterrent,” the spokesman said.

“Tony Abbott is full of hypocrisy and negativity. If they really want to stop the flow of boats they should stop standing in the way of offshore processing.”

Source: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/nz-toughens-up-asylum-seeker-policy-with-review-of-refugee-status/story-fn59niix-1226343109690

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Chinese asylum seekers take Australian option

April 11, 2012

A group of 10 Chinese people, including two children, have abandoned plans to sail to New Zealand and will seek asylum in Australia.

The Chinese nationals have been camping at a Darwin wharf while they decided what to do after they were rescued at sea adrift in their yacht last Thursday.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen confirmed the news after the group held talks with officials in Darwin for more than seven hours today.

It is not yet known where the asylum seekers will be taken although they had earlier said they did not wish to stay in Darwin.

Mr Bowen says he is pleased the group has decided to seek asylum in Australia.

“I obviously think that’s a good outcome, as it means they won’t be yet again taking another further dangerous boat journey,” he said.

“We’ll now process them in the normal way. They’ll be processed for their asylum claim, security checks will begin.”

Mr Bowen says it would not have been an easy decision for the group.

“They’ve weighed everything up, I’m not going to speculate on what led to that decision, certainly we didn’t enter into any special arrangements for them,” he said.

“But we explained how the process would work and certainly of course made it clear that they’re entitled under Australian law to claim asylum in Australia.”

The group made the decision after being warned they would be endangering their lives in attempting the Tasman crossing in their small yacht.

 

Risking death

Earlier, a commercial fisherman who rescued them when they were adrift in the yacht off the Northern Territory coast said they were lucky to make it as far as they did.

Grant Barker responded to the group’s distress call for fuel and water at sea, about 240 kilometres north of Darwin.

Mr Barker told the ABC earlier that their small yacht is designed for leisure cruising and, coupled with a lack of sailing experience, the plan was a recipe for disaster.

“You can tell pretty much straight away, I’ve been fishing for 30 years, whether people have any idea of … seamanship and these guys had very limited skills,” he said.

“No one was able to throw ropes properly, ties knots properly, they had difficulty getting drums across to us to get water.

“They were wearing life jackets at the time even though it was calm.”

Mr Barker said that while the vessel was seaworthy the group faced death if they went ahead with their plan.

“I’d agree that it is seaworthy but it is only seaworthy for sheltered waters and weekend frolics around the Whitsundays.

“It is not equipped for a voyage of that magnitude.

“My concern is they will go to sea again and, if they do, they will probably die.”

Federal Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison says the actions of the Chinese group demonstrates how the system is being abused by the practice of “country shopping”.

Source: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-04-11/china-asylum-seekers-interim-update/3943516/?site=&source=rss

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Chinese asylum yacht docks in NT on way to NZ

Passengers from Chinese yacht stay at Darwin ferry terminal

Photo: Passengers from the yacht have been spending their days at the Cullen Bay ferry terminal in Darwin.

Ten Chinese Nationals who were on their way to New Zealand to seek asylum have been camping at ferry terminal in Darwin.

The group left Malaysia on a yacht last month aiming to get to New Zealand.

But they ran out of food and since Thursday have been spending their days in one of Darwin’s ritziest suburbs, Cullen Bay.

They say they are Falun Gong members and left China because of persecution.

“We didn’t all leave China together, we left at different times,” one of the men told the ABC through an interpreter.

“We didn’t know each other then.

“We met in Malaysia at the UN and left Malaysia together by boat to go to New Zealand as refugees.”

They have documents which they say proves they are from China and have been given refugee status by the United Nations.

They say Australian Customs officials will not let them leave Darwin because of poor weather and other safety concerns.

This morning, immigration officials escorted the group’s women, children and elderly into cars.

  Asylum yacht in Darwin harbour

It was not clear where they were being taken but a few of the men were allowed to stay at the terminal near their boat.

One of the men says they are not worried.

“The Australian Government doesn’t want us to leave for New Zealand.

“They are just thinking about our safety at sea.

“They’re just trying to take care of us.”

A spokesman for Immigration Minister Chris Bowen says some of the group have been given visas that will allow them to replenish their supplies, before they all continue on their way.

It is not clear when they plan to depart.

Source: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-04-09/chinese-asylum-seekers-camp-in-darwin-en-route-to-nz/3939652

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