Peter Dutton, Australia’s immigration minister, says he will have no objection if Nauru accepts New Zealand’s offer to resettle some of the refugees currently held on the Pacific island.
Speaking to Andrew Thomas, Al Jazeera’s Sydney correspondent, on Talk to Al Jazeera*, Dutton said that a deal between Nauru and New Zealand was “an issue between Nauru and New Zealand”.
When pressed as to whether he would have any objection to a such a deal, he said “No”, with the qualification that wherever refugees are resettled, “New Zealand or somewhere else, they will not be coming to Australia at any point”.
In the past, Australia has appeared to rule out any possibility of refugees held in its “regional processing centres” in Nauru and Papua New Guinea (PNG) being settled in New Zealand, despite New Zealand’s government offering resettlement places to them.
In February, Dutton was quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald daily as saying “the New Zealand proposal as brokered by Julia Gillard with Prime Minister Key basically provided people smugglers with a back door into Australia”.
In 2013, Scott Morrison, the then opposition immigration spokesman, said resettling refugees in New Zealand would be to put “a bit of Kiwi sugar on the table for people smugglers”.
On August 10, the Guardian Australia news website published a catalogue of more than 2,000 internal incident reports, some of which detailed instances of sexual abuse of women and children, sexual harassment and violence inside the Nauru prison camp facility.
Giving further details of conditions for asylum seekers in Australia’s offshore detention network, a former refugee prison camp employee, Natasha Blucher, told Al Jazeera of her relief at seeing the publication of documents leaked from within the system, reporting on alleged human rights abuses against some 442 people who remain on Nauru as asylum seekers.
“It was somewhat vindicating because now there’s a body of evidence from Nauru,” Blucher, a former social worker on Nauru, said of the document leak in an interview from Darwin, in Australia’s north.
Under Australian law, anyone intercepted while trying to reach the country by boat is sent for processing to detention centres on Manus Island off PNG or Nauru.
Talk to Al Jazeera will be broadcast on Saturday 17, September, at 04:30 GMT