Dutton’s offshore resettlement crisis: Cambodia, Philippines…Kyrgyzstan?

The demonstration of people power that brought Abyan to Australia is also widening the cracks in the offshore processing regime.

The latest pitch for a resettlement arrangement with the ex-Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan came after the Philippines firmly rejected any idea that it would be part of a refugee resettlement deal with Australia.

Australia has given a bucket of money to Cambodia (around $55 million), but only four refugees have gone there from Nauru—and even they are trying to move on.

The talk of Kyrgyzstan is an admission that the government does not have any resettlement arrangements for the refugees on Manus or Nauru. The gaping holes and the abuses of offshore processing are getting too big, even for the boosters of offshore processing.

Shamefully, two of the boosters are Labor leader Bill Shorten and shadow Immigration Minister, Richard Marles. Even after the Philippines rejected any deal with Australia, Bill Shorten was still telling reporters that the government should continue to engage with Asian countries including the Philippines.

“I don’t think Australia should give up,” he said, “To me, the government needs to redouble its efforts with Thailand, with Malaysia and Indonesia, with the Philippines.”

Despite urging from Shorten, the fact is that resettlement in “third countries” like Cambodia, the Philippines and now Kyrgyzstan, are contemptible proposals of a desperate government, that will never happen. Kyrgyzstan is the second poorest Central Asian country and more than a third of its workforce has left the country. Recently Afghan refugees have been resettled from Kyrgyzstan to Canada.

Internationally, the refugees on Manus and Nauru are rightly regarded as being Australia’s responsibility.

Even the Murdoch mercenary, Chris Kenny wrote in The Australian, “Ideally, Australia would again gradually and quietly resettle most of the refugees in Nauru and Manus Island on our shores.” The Australian editorialised that “the Turnbull government needs to find suitable third countries for the refugees waiting resettlement.”

The contradictions are becoming more exposed. The campaign here can drive the point home; the only “third country” for the refugees is Australia.


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