Dutton says it is a ‘myth’ that other countries will take Manus refugees

Dutton says it is a ‘myth’ that other countries will take Manus refugees
Manus Island regional processing facility. Photo by DIAC images via Wikimedia Commons

The refugees on Manus Island that are not being resettled to the USA will remain in Papua New Guinea despite an offer to resettle a portion of them from New Zealand. Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has stated that it is a “myth” that there are any other countries willing to take the refugees.

This follows a deal between the Australian government and the US Trump administration in 2017 under which up to 1,200 Manus refugees would be resettled in the United States. Despite this deal it is unknown if all owed protection is going to be accepted.

Those refugees who are not being resettled are set to remain permanently in Papua New Guinea as part of a 2013 deal made by the Rudd Labor government, unless there was another nation willing to resettle them.

In response to this, Labor has urged the Coalition to negotiate with other countries for the resettlement of the remaining refugees. However, Mr Dutton has doubled down in saying that this option was not realistic.

He said that when people spoke of “some mythical third country” they were referring to something that did not exist and would not exist. The government has been in talks with several nations since the deal with the US but without any progress.

Australia does however have a resettlement deal with Cambodia, but only 3 people have been successfully resettled there so far. Mr Dutton said his staff would continue to negotiate but he did not expect any progress.

He said that countries weren’t “jumping out of their skin” at the chance to resettles Manus’ refugees. Mr Dutton continues to deny the prospect of a resettlement to New Zealand, stating that doing so would resume people smuggling to Australia.

Mr Dutton pointed to a Malaysian operation which stopped a people smuggling ring over the weekend, stopping 131 refugees headed to either Australia or New Zealand. Mr Dutton said that New Zealand was now a new hot spot for people smugglers and resettling Manus refugees there would signal that they had been successful as people can migrate to Australia easily from New Zealand.

In response, Labor’s Bill Shorten has said that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull should take the New Zealand offer and that it should not be seen as an invitation to asylum seekers.