New Zealand offers to take 267 asylum seekers off Australia’s hands

Under Australia’s tough immigration policy, asylum-seekers who try to reach the country by sea are sent to detention camps

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The Independent Online

Asylum seekers facing deportation by Australian authorities could go to New Zealand, the country’s Prime Minister has said.

According to reports Prime Minister John Key offered Australian authorities to take 267 asylum seekers – including 37 babies – off their hands. Mr Key added it was “potentially possible” for his country to accept any genuine refugees from Australia.

Under Australia’s tough immigration policy, asylum-seekers who try to reach Australia by sea are sent to detention camps in the Pacific island nation of Papu New Guinea and Naura. They are blocked from being resettled in Australia even if they are found to be refugees. 

An agreement brokered by the two countries theoretically allows for New Zealand to take 150 refugees a year from Australia’s immigration system as part of its annual intake of 750 people.

"That offer is there. Historically, the Australians have said no but it is part of the 750 allocation that we have and if they wanted us to take people then, subject to them meeting the criteria, the New Zealand government would be obliged to do that because we've given that commitment that we'd do so," Mr Key said.

The offer of asylum by New Zealand follows a protest at the weekend in which Australians gathered at a hospital to support doctors who refused to discharge a baby facing deportation to a detention camp. 

The Lady Cilento Hospital in Brisbane said the year-old girl will not be released "until a suitable home environment is identified".

According to the AFP news agency campaigners from Amnesty International and Greenpeace unfurled a ‘£LetThemStay’ banner on Sydney's iconic harbour calling for the asylum-seekers, who are set to be deported after being brought to Australia for medical treatment, to be allowed to stay.

The ‘£LetThemStay’ campaign, which has been trending on Twitter, has also seen hundreds of people maintain a vigil - now in its third day - outside the Brisbane hospital where the baby is being cared for

The 12-month-old infant, who is called Asha and the child of Nepalese asylum-seekers, was brought to the eastern city of Brisbane for treatment in late January after being scalded with hot water at the remote Nauru facility.