New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (C) speaks during the meeting with Japan's PM Abe in Da Nang, Vietnam on Nov. 10, 2017.
New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (C) speaks during the meeting with Japan's PM Abe in Da Nang, Vietnam on Nov. 10, 2017. The Yomiuri Shimbun via AP Images

‘Unacceptable’: NZ prime minister blasts Australia

PRIME Minister Jacinda Ardern has blasted Australia's handling of the refugee crisis on Manus Island as unacceptable as she seeks another meeting with Malcolm Turnbull on the issue.

Ms Ardern has continued to push New Zealand's offer to accept 150 refugees and asylum seekers from Australia's offshore detention centres since her first face-to-face meeting with her Australian counterpart in Sydney a week ago, the New Zealand Herald reports.

She wants a more substantive conversation when both leaders reach the Philippines for the East Asia Summit this week.

"We made the offer because we saw a great need. No matter what label you put on it there is absolute need and there is harm being done," she said on Sunday morning.

"I see the human face of this and I see the need and the role New Zealand needs to play. I think it's clear that we don't see what's happening there as acceptable, that's why the offer's there."

It's her strongest statement to date on the unfolding crisis.

The situation on Manus Island continues to deteriorate. There are 400 refugees and asylum seekers who have barricaded themselves inside the mothballed detention centre, fearing for their safety if they leave.

The Australian-funded asylum seeker transit centre just outside the Manus capital Lorengau. Picture: Brian Cassey
The Australian-funded asylum seeker transit centre just outside the Manus capital Lorengau. Picture: Brian Cassey

The United Nations has raised concerns over reported instances of assault, sexual abuse, self harm and suspicious deaths.

Ms Ardern hasn't revealed the content of the talks with Mr Turnbull, but said the fact they are continuing proved the urgency of the situation.

New Zealand won't pursue a deal directly with Papua New Guinea, despite Foreign Minister Winston Peters spotted holding talks with PNG's Prime Minister Peter O'Neill.

Ms Ardern said it was faster to organise the logistics of any deal with Australia.

"It continues to be the easiest option is to go through Australia given the screening that's already occurred of those refugees ... I'm interested in the fastest route," she said.

Mr Peters has made it clear New Zealand's offer also includes refugees and asylum seekers in Australian detention centres in Nauru.

Last week, pictures emerged from Manus Island showing the increasingly deteriorating state of accommodation. Behrouz Boochani, a journalist from Iran who has been on Manus Island for almost four years, tweeted on Sunday that "Australia does not have the right" to reject New Zealand's offer.

"We do not want to go to Australia, let us go to NZ," he wrote. "Stop keeping political hostages."

This article originally appeared in the New Zealand Herald and is republished here with permission.



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