Thursday, April 28, 2016

New Zealand should take Australia's refugees

Yesterday, Papua New Guinea's Supreme Court found that the Australian refugee concentration camp on Manus Island was illegal and violated human rights. Shortly afterwards, Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister Peter O'Neill announced that the centre would be closed and demanded Australia take its refugees back. Australia, of course, is refusing, and alternating between "your country, not our problem" and promises to ship them to Christmas Island or Nauru, interwoven with threats to cut off aid to Papua if it doesn't ignore its constitution and continue to illegally detain and torture Australia's refugees.

Of course, there is a solution: New Zealand could take them. We've done it before, when Australia refused to accept refugees from the Tampa, and we should do it again. We've got space - and even a standing offer. But Australia refuses to accept that out of fear the people it has illegally detained, brutalised and tortured would become New Zealand citizens and use our open border to go to the very country which mistreated them. Yeah, right. But that does say something of Australia's high opinion of itself that they think they can abuse people in this way and yet they'll still want to live there...

But to be honest, given their policies, offending the racist, torturing Australians is a bonus, not a drawback. They need to be shown that not even their closest friends will accept their conduct. We should talk to the Papuan government directly, and offer to take all the detainees from Manus. And if Australia doesn't like it, tough.