Jacinda Ardern’s Manus Deal
By Annemarie Thorby
Jacinda Ardern’s offer to take 150 refugees from Manus is as nearly as hollow as the US Deal.
Claims that the PM, Jacinda Ardern, has made progress on resolving the Manus situation are rubbish. The only thing that
has changed since Ardern and Turnbull’s brunch meeting on November 5th is that NZ will now give up to $3million to the
PNG and Nauru governments and aid agencies such as the Red Cross to try to ensure that the refugees do not die in the
next few weeks.
On 5th November Turnbull told Ardern that he would ‘consider’ New Zealand’s offer once his government had completed its
refugee transfer arrangement with the US, ten days later he has not changed his mind.
Ardern and the Labour Government are either playing political games with the NZ public or have honestly missed the point
on several basis, not least the fact that the arrangement is for only 150 men, there are more than four times that
number needing re-settlement and the US deal is a farce.
During a discussion about the deal with Donald Trump in January this year, Malcolm Turnbull told Trump that the US did
not have to do anything but basically pretend to go through the process. The deal did not mean they actually had to
‘the agreement … does not require you to take 2,000 people. It does not require you to take any. …
The obligation is for the United States to look and examine and take up to and only if they so choose – 1,250 to 2,000.
Every individual is subject to your vetting. You can decide to take them or to not take them after vetting. You can
decide to take 1,000 or 100. It is entirely up to you. The obligation is to only go through the process.
… I say this to you sincerely that it is in the mutual interest of the United States to say, “yes, we can conform with
that deal – we are not obliged to take anybody we do not want, we will go through extreme vetting” and that way you are
seen to show the respect that a trusted ally wants and deserves.’
Trump did hold up his end of the deal to an extent – in September, after ‘extreme vetting’, the US took 54 refugees in
total from both Manus and Nauru (about 25 of the group were men from Manus) but that leaves a lot of refugees in
Australia’s off-shore detention centres.
The US has said that they will continue with their ‘extreme vetting’ but this will continue to happen at a snail pace.
The promised US deal was meant to be completed by 31st October. In July this year Immigration minister Peter Dutton had
confirmed that the US deal would be completed before the closure of the detention centre. At the same time he denied
that the tight deadline would result in refugees being left on Manus after 31st October. The opposite is so apparent.
The US deal is a political game that should be ignored. It is unknown how long it will take and whether it will result
in anymore than a handful of people at each time being allowed to move to the US.
The men on Manus have been vetted and assessed and processed ad nauseam. The majority of those still on Manus have been
found to be refugees. They are now stuck in a legal limbo.
The Australian government has said that with the closure of the detention centre it is Papua New Guinea’s responsibility
to settle the refugees and cite the arrangements made under the ‘off-shore settlement deal’, however PNG states that the
men are the responsibility of Australia.
There have been calls for Ardern and the Labour government to negotiate directly with Papua New Guinea over the offer to
take 150 men however Ardern says that she isn’t moved to negotiate directly with PNG whilst Australia had NZ’s ‘offer on
the table’. At the same time the PNG Immigration Minister has said he will not deal with NZ as the refugees on Manus are
It is a stalemate and Ardern and the NZ government are doing nothing to alleviate the situation.
It could be, as some others have pointed out, Ardern’s ‘Tampa moment’. However, by saying Australia is presiding over
the process and by persisting with the pretense of negotiating with Turnbull, she is leaving all the power in the
Australian government’s hands.
Some people have called upon NGOs and activists to do what they did 30 years ago, when the people from Rongelap Atoll
were evacuated after nuclear testing there. Either way, what is needed is action now.