Pacific News Minute: New Political and Legal Snags for Asylum Seekers on Nauru and Manus

Oct 24, 2018

Aerial view of Nauru
Credit U.S. Department of Energy's Atmospheric Radiation Measurement Program /

Yesterday, we reported that an election result in Australia over the weekend may have broken the deadlock on the transfer of at least some refugees held in notorious camps in Nauru, but now that compromise has run into snags. Meanwhile, a second set of migrants held on Manus Island lost a case in court.

Two years ago, the Supreme Court of Papua New Guinea ruled that the detention of 731 men in an Australian run camp on Manus Island was unconstitutional. Lawyers immediately asked the court to order the government to pay them compensation, and order that they be resettled in another country.

Yesterday, the court dismissed the case on a technicality. There is an option to appeal, but a lawyer for the litigants told RNZ Pacific that these matters can take a long time.

In Australia, what looked like an emerging compromise to remove children and their families from the camp in Nauru to New Zealand ran into problems. Prime Minister Scott Morrison vowed that the government would insist on ironclad measures to ensure that none of the refugees ever set foot in Australia and warned that any dilution of that principle could encourage people smugglers to resume their dangerous trade.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison
Credit Clrdms / Wikimedia Commons

Hardline Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton told parliament that of the 52 children still on Nauru, 13 had family members who had been flagged as security risks by the United States. Dutton questioned whether New Zealand would accept known security risks, and taunted the opposition by asking if they wanted to bring them to Australia.

Prime Minister Morrison says he prefers transfers to the United States under a deal negotiated by the Obama administration to accept as many as 1,200 refugees.

So far, the U.S. has taken in 443. But none who are Iranian, Somali, Sudanese, Iraqi or Syrian . . . which describes many of the 1,250 or so that remain.