Gilliard/Key refugee plan turns to custard

Prime Minister John Key should withdraw his support for a regional processing centre for asylum seekers in the wake of its rejection by the Timor-Leste Parliament, the Green Party said today.

Yesterday, the Timor-Leste Parliament voted unanimously to reject Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s proposal last week to set up such a centre.

“It’s time for New Zealand to pull the plug on this half-baked plan for a regional refugee processing centre,” Green Party immigration spokesperson Keith Locke said.

“It was never more than a pre-election gimmick by the new Australian Prime Minister.

“Our Government should not have given it any credibility.

“It is not fair for Julia Gillard to dump refugees arriving in Australia on Timor Leste, a small poverty-stricken nation.

Mr Locke backed comments made by the president of Timor-Leste’s Parliament, Fernando Lasama De Araujo, rejecting his country becoming a ‘rubbish place’ for refugees’.

“John Key could use this opportunity tell Julia Gillard to forget all about ‘off-shore’ processing of refugees,” Mr Locke said.

“Australia and New Zealand are wealthy countries and can easily process all arriving asylum seekers, as is their duty under the 1951 Refugee Convention.

“If Key wants to help Australia, he should offer to take more of the boat people arriving in Australia, not look around for some small island nation to take the burden.

“New Zealand’s can lead by example and increase our refugee quota from 750 to 1000,” Mr Locke said.