New Zealand’s Prime Minister John Key said that his country was ready to accept some refugees who were sent to detention centers by Australia at a meeting on Friday with his Australian counterpart Malcolm Turnbull.
New Zealand is set to keep an agreement made in 2013 with Australia to resettle 150 refugees a year from Nauru and Papua New Guinea. Nauru is an island country in the southwestern Pacific Ocean, where according to Amnesty International refugees live under inhumane conditions.
"So I can't tell you who might or might not be able to come, or whether the Australian government would want to exercise the right to do that," Key told reporters in a joint press conference with Turnbull. "All I can simply say is the offer remains on the table."
Turnbull, however, expressed concern about the dangers refugees might encounter on the way to New Zealand.
"We take into account what John has proposed but we do so very thoughtfully, recognising that the one thing we must not do is give an inch to the people smugglers," Turnbull told reporters.
Australia has taken only 26 Syrian refugees since an intake of 12,000 in September, immigration officials reported. There are 2.5 million refugees in Turkey, according to the latest figures from the United Nations High Comissioner for Refugees, while 20,000 refugees have settled in Canada in just three months. Australia's Immigration Minister Peter Dutton explained the low intake by saying that security checks were ongoing to assure national security.
None of the refugees are allowed to stay in Australia and are sent to Nauru or Papua New Guinea's Manus Island.
Turnbull has been criticised by rights groups, the United Nations and some medical bodies over Australia's refugee policy.