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Ex-New Zealand PM: Manus refugees deserve humanity

Ex-New Zealand PM: Manus refugees deserve humanity
From Al Jazeera - December 7, 2017

New Zealand's former prime minister has criticised Australia's treatment of refugees detained onManus Island, saying it needs to show"humanity" and allow her country to resettle some of them.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has repeatedly snubbed New Zealand's offer to take in 150out of the 600 refugees who are currently held at detention centres on Papua New Guinea's remote Pacific island.

"Where's the humanity?" Helen Clark, who served as prime minister from 1999-2008, told Al Jazeera on the sidelines of International Civil Society Week in the Fijian capital, Suva.

"Australia is not allowing New Zealand to help at all. Our offer to help has still not been accepted."

Up until late last month, more than 300 men had barricaded themselves in one of the decommissionedcamps on theisland, resisting their relocationafter a series of violent attacks against refugees by locals.

The men resorted to drinking rain water and dug their own wells in order to survive, whilepleading for other countries to take them in.

Manus Island police used stormed the camp on November 23 and, according to eyewitness accounts, usedlong metal poles to beat the refugees before dragging them out and relocating them to another site.

"When I was prime minister, I offered Australia to take in refugees, and it was accepted," Clark said.

"We took in many people, many Afghans, and it was one of the most successful refugee resettlements we had ever done."

Australia has refused to resettle any refugee that arrived by boat since 2013, instead it pays Papua New Guinea and Nauru to keep them in prisons and has been searching for countries that will resettle them.

Few refugees have accepted offers to resettle in Papua New Guinea or Nauru, a tiny impoverished atoll with a population of 10,000 people.

Australia had hoped the detainees would be either resettled into Papua New Guinea society or theUnited States, under a controversial refugee swap, by the time the centre closed.

Under the US deal, struck with previous US presidentBarack Obamaand bitterly criticised by his successorDonald Trump, just 54 refugees have been accepted, with 24 flown to theUS.

"The situation still unfolding on Manus Island presentsa grave risk of further deterioration, and of further damage to extremely vulnerable human beings," Thomas Albrecht, the regional UNHCR representative, said in a statement.

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