First refugees from Nauru to be resettled in New Zealand arrive nine years after deal offered

Six men who had been held in Australia’s offshore processing facilities for more than eight years arrive in Auckland

The first six refugees to be resettled in New Zealand from Australia’s offshore processing regime on Nauru have landed in Auckland.

The flight follows a resettlement deal first offered by New Zealand nine years – and three prime ministers – ago when it proposed taking 150 refugees from Australia’s offshore centres every year.

On Tuesday, six men – four Rohingya men from Myanmar, one from Sudan and one from Cameroon – each of whom had been held on Nauru for more than eight years, flew to Auckland.

Australia’s home affairs minister, Clare O’Neil, confirmed the transfer.

“We confirm a flight left Nauru today destined for New Zealand with an initial 6 refugees on board. The Australian and New Zealand governments continue to work together to resettle annually 150 refugees from Australia’s existing regional processing cohort.”

A spokesperson for New Zealand’s immigration minister, Michael Wood, said: “We can confirm a flight left Nauru today destined for New Zealand with an initial 6 refugees on board. The Australian and New Zealand Governments continue to work together to resettle 150 refugees annually from Australia’s existing regional processing cohort.”

There remain just under 100 people held on Nauru, and a similar number in Papua New Guinea where Australia’s former offshore processing centre was found to be illegal and forced shut.

A separate direct deal between PNG and New Zealand will allow for refugees previously held within Australia’s offshore centre on Manus Island to be resettled in New Zealand. That scheme has seen one Iranian man, his Papua New Guinean wife and their child resettled in New Zealand.

New Zealand, under prime minister John Key, first offered to take 150 refugees a year from Australia’s offshore detention centres in 2013, a deal that was accepted by the then Australian prime minister Julia Gillard.

No refugees were resettled before the Labor party lost government that year. While the deal remained, New Zealand insisted, “on the table”, it was never taken up by the Coalition governments which followed.

The former prime minister Scott Morrison belatedly accepted the resettlement offer in March 2022, just months before his government was defeated in May’s election.

Australia’s only “enduring” offshore detention centre – after the forced closure of Manus Island by the PNG supreme court – Nauru continues to attract significant controversy, particularly over the tenaciously high cost of maintaining a detention facility that is currently empty.

The refugees held at present on the island live in the community: the detention centre remains on standby for new arrivals, but no asylum seekers have been sent offshore since 2014.

Ian Rintoul, a spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition, said the resettlement was “very welcome news”.

“It’s a long-awaited relief, but it’s been far, far too long. These people have been on that island eight, nine years, waiting. And while this is great for the six people who have gone today, there are people still waiting.”

Médecins Sans Frontières said in 2018 the mental health suffering on Nauru was “among the most severe MSF has ever seen”.

Contributors

Ben Doherty and Tess McClure

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Australia agrees 450 refugees can be resettled in New Zealand, nine years after deal first offered
Under the deal 150 refugees a year held on Nauru, or who have come to Australia temporarily, will be eligible for resettlement

Josh Butler and Daniel Hurst in Canberra, Ollie Neas in Wellington

24, Mar, 2022 @3:14 AM

Article image
Peter Dutton open to refugees on Nauru being resettled in New Zealand
Immigration minister says any resettlement is up to Nauru and New Zealand, which contrasts with PM’s claim such a move would encourage people smugglers

Katharine Murphy Political editor

15, Sep, 2016 @6:27 AM

Article image
First group of refugees on Manus and Nauru to be resettled in US
Australia confirms first of those to be accepted under US deal will be told of the decision this week

Helen Davidson and Ben Doherty

19, Sep, 2017 @10:07 PM

Article image
Cambodia deal doomed after just four Nauru refugees resettled for $55m
Cambodia says it has ‘no plans’ to take more Nauru refugees, but Tony Abbott and Julie Bishop insist Australia has secured ‘important agreement’

Ben Doherty and agencies

30, Aug, 2015 @11:27 PM

Article image
New Zealand rejects Nauru's claims it stopped refugees from visiting on holiday visas
Nauruan president Baron Waqa claimed he brokered a deal for NZ to accept 80 refugees, which has also been denied

Luke Henriques-Gomes and Eleanor Ainge Roy

16, Nov, 2018 @3:58 AM

Article image
Three Liberal MPs push Morrison to take child refugees and families off Nauru
Craig Laundy, Julia Banks and Russell Broadbent say conditions on island have reached tipping point

Katharine Murphy Political editor

15, Oct, 2018 @7:40 PM

Article image
Refugees on Manus Island offered chance to move to Nauru
Australian government accused of ‘political trick’ as hundreds of refugees refuse to leave Manus Island centre

Ben Doherty

10, Oct, 2017 @8:16 PM

Article image
The Coalition argument against sending refugees to New Zealand was always absurd | Ben Doherty
Despite the take-up of the resettlement offer, nine years after it was first made, the architecture of Australia’s offshore detention policy remains

Ben Doherty

25, Mar, 2022 @1:24 AM

Article image
Turnbull urged to allow New Zealand to resettle refugees held on Nauru
In an open letter from refugees living in Australian-run detention on Nauru, signatories promise not to use potential New Zealand citizenship to get to Australia

Helen Davidson

19, Jan, 2016 @6:40 AM

Article image
First Nauru refugees leave for US resettlement
More than 50 refugees from Manus Island and Nauru are on their way to the United States to be resettled there

Ben Doherty and agencies

27, Sep, 2017 @5:30 AM