Vastavam web: Australian opposition lawmakers have offered a deal to resettle 150 refugees from a Pacific detention camp, which if accepted by embattled Prime Minister Scott Morrison could strengthen his tenuous grip on power. Morrison’s government is on the verge of losing its majority, after a devastating by-election on Saturday, and key independents have warned their support hinges on him freeing children from the Australian-run detention camp on Nauru island.
Nearly 1,300 asylum seekers have been detained in Papua New Guinea and Nauru for more than five years after being intercepted while trying to travel to Australia by boat. New Zealand has offered to resettle 150 refugees, a proposal Canberra has previously said it would only accept if opposition lawmakers agreed to change the law to prevent any refugee from ever travelling to Australia in future.
“Labor is prepared to compromise with the government,” deputy Labor leader Tanya Plibersek told reporters in Canberra. “We understand that it is beyond time that these people who have been reported by their doctors and other support workers to be in the most desperate circumstances, find a new home.” Eleven child migrants were transferred from Nauru to Australia for medical treatment on Monday, only hours after two independents said they would only support the government if it stopped detaining children.
Morrison is poised to lose his one-seat parliamentary majority after voters, angry about the party’s ousting of former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, deserted the ruling Liberal Party in a Sydney by-election. Although counting continues, Morrison is likely to have to rely on the support of five independents to prevent a no confidence motion that could trigger an election. The next general election is due by May 2019. Two independents have said their support is conditional on the immediate resettlement of 52 children detained on Nauru.
In 2016 Australia and the United States agreed to a refugee swap which would see Australia take people from Latin America and in return the United States would take up to 1,250 refugees held in the Australian camps. Two years on, only 422 refugees have been given U.S. resettlement. “Lives are at risk,” said Catherine Stubberfield, a spokeswoman for the U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR.