29 Apr 2016

NZ could take Manus Island asylum seekers

3:58 pm on 29 April 2016

New Zealand could take asylum seekers from Manus Island under an existing offer but it has not been approached by the Australian government, the Immigration Minister's office says.

The Manus Island Detention Centre in PNG

The Manus Island Detention Centre in PNG Photo: EMTV

Papu New Guinea's Supreme Court has ruled the island detention centre, which holds 850 men sent there by Australia, must shut down because it is unconstitutional, and the asylum seekers cannot be legally detained.

The asylum seekers have been held on the island for up to three years.

A spokesperson for Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse said New Zealand's offer to resettle 150 refugees - initially proposed in 2013 - still stood, but there had been no discussions with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Australian media reports have said Mr Turnbull has ruled out the deal, saying settlement in a country like New Zealand would be used by people-smugglers as a marketing opportunity.

He said the deal the Gillard government made with New Zealand provided a backdoor way to get into Australia.

Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister Peter O'Neill confirmed on Wednesday that the centre on Manus Island would be closed but did not specify a timeframe.

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs