Shared from the 11/3/2018 The Age Digital Edition eEdition

Fresh bid for NZ solution rejected

REFUGEES More Nauru children brought to Australia


The Morrison government has dismissed a fresh bid by a Senate crossbencher to resettle refugees in New Zealand, but continues to transfer children from Nauru to Australia, with two more families leaving yesterday.

There are now only 35 refugee children on Nauru, with more expected to leave in coming days.

Fifty minors have come to Australia since October 15 – partly as a result of Federal Court orders – and the government has signalled a desire to ‘‘quietly’’ get all children off the island by Christmas.

But refugee advocates say the government undermined that intention with legal action challenging the Federal Court’s right to order medical transfers from Nauru to Australia – which was thrown out by judges yesterday.

Children and their families who have been brought to Australia also face an uncertain future, with Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton insisting they will never settle here permanently.

Late yesterday, Immigration Minister David Coleman dismissed a proposal by crossbench senator Tim Storer to immediately bring 150 refugees to Australia before resettling them in New Zealand.

In return, Senator Storer said he would support a controversial bill to impose a lifetime ban on any refugee settled in New Zealand after previously being sent to Manus Island or Nauru from ever receiving a valid Australian visa.

A spokeswoman for Mr Coleman said the government’s position remained clear and it would not ‘‘horse trade’’ on the bill.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has also talked down the New Zealand option, saying he prefers to bring families to Australia ‘‘quietly’’ and without ‘‘showboating’’.

Even if Australia took up the Kiwi offer to resettle 150 refugees a year, hundreds of adult refugees would remain without a permanent home.

Liberal MP Russell Broadbent – a long-time refugee advocate who has been working behind the scenes with Mr Morrison on the issue – said he was confident of finding a durable solution.

‘‘We’re all working towards the best outcome,’’ he said. ‘‘I’m confident we’re making progress.’’

But refugee advocates say the government’s commitment to never resettle the refugees in Australia means even those families who are transferred here for medical purposes remain in limbo.

Yesterday, the Morrison government was unsuccessful in challenging the Federal Court’s power to order the evacuation of dangerously ill refugee children from Nauru, including an 11-year-old Iranian girl who had not eaten for more than a fortnight.

Lawyers for the Home Affairs department last month argued the court did not have the power to commence hearing such matters, because the girl was a ‘‘transitory person’’.

But the Federal Court ruled it was inappropriate to use the 11-year-old Iranian girl’s case to test the court’s jurisdiction, in part because she had already been taken to Australia from Nauru.

The Human Rights Law Centre said the government could again challenge the court’s authority the next time advocates try to have a sick person evacuated to Australia.

‘‘For now, desperately unwell people being mistreated by the government on Manus or Nauru can still take their case to the Federal Court,’’ said Daniel Webb, from the legal advocacy group.

Separately, advocates confirmed a number of refugees on Nauru had rejected resettlement offers from the United States as part of the deal struck under former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull.

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