Greens push for immediate evacuation of refugees in Nauru and PNG

Pacific refugee camp

The Greens will use the first day of Australian parliament to introduce a bill that would offer immediate evacuation to asylum seekers and refugees who remain in Nauru and Papua New Guinea.

The bill would offer roughly 150 people who are still in Nauru and PNG to temporarily live in the community in Australia until they are resettled to a third country, as long as there have been no adverse security assessments made against them.

Those who are evacuated would also be provided with medical assessments and treatment as needed.

Greens senator Nick McKim said the bill had been written specifically to be consistent with Labor’s immigration platform.

“We’ve designed this bill specifically to be in line with Labor’s policy so they can support it, and in doing that we’re trying to avoid the toxicity that has dominated refugee politics in Australia over the last decade,” Senator McKim said.

“The last ten years has been one of the darkest and bloodiest chapters in our country’s story and it’s time we wrote the ending to it.”

Australia has maintained a policy precluding any asylum seeker who attempted to travel to Australia by boat from ever being resettled to Australia since it was introduced by the Gillard-Rudd Labor governments a decade ago.

Labor sought to remain largely in lock step with the Coalition on asylum seeker policy at the federal election, as it tried to avoid another election campaign centred on immigration.

However, it has committed to offering a pathway to residency for thousands of refugees already in Australia on temporary protection visas, who are unable to work or study.

Senator McKim noted Labor also supported the Greens “medevac bill” while in opposition, which allowed for asylum seekers to be brought to Australia for urgent medical care.

He said this bill would give the government a chance to work “in the same spirit of cooperation to finish that task”.

“These people have been ten years exiled from Australia in contravention of our obligations under the refugee convention, and they should be brought here to Australia so they can be looked after properly,” Senator McKim said.

“If the government is serious about restoring our international reputation, and restoring the reputation of our democratic institutions, absolutely they should support this legislation.” Refugee and journalist Behrouz Boochani, who was held in offshore detention and later in the community on Manus Island for six years until being resettled in New Zealand, is due to visit the federal parliament for the first time this week, as the country approaches ten years of its offshore detention policy.