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Govt urged to 'stiff arm' Australia

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 17/10/2016

An aerial photograph of Nauru: The world's smallest republic: Australia sends asylum seekers to a detention centre on the island nation of Nauru © Getty Images Australia sends asylum seekers to a detention centre on the island nation of Nauru A damning report on Australia's refugee detention centre in Nauru has prompted a call from Labour for the government to renew its offer to take 150 of them.

Labour leader Andrew Little says the government should "stiff arm" Australia into agreeing.

The Amnesty International report says conditions in the Nauru camp "meet the legal definition of torture" and its New Zealand director, Grant Bayldon, wants the government to accept the refugees directly.

New Zealand offered in 2013 to take up to 150 refugees from Nauru and Manus Island, but that offer hasn't been taken up.

Mr Little says the refugees on Nauru are effectively in Australian government custody, and accepts the government must work through diplomatic channels.

"But if the Australians aren't going to allow New Zealand to assist, then Prime Minister John Key should cause international embarrassment to Australia, if they haven't been embarrassed enough already," he told reporters on Tuesday.

"It's time to step up ... we need to be applying a bit of stiff arm on this and say `we can help, and if you're not going to talk meaningfully to us we're going to go to the world at large and explain what is happening'."

Mr Key says the government does reiterate its offer, and that it sees asylum seekers as a regional issue.

"In the end, it's for Australia to decide," he said.

"It's a bilateral agreement between us and Australia, not between us and the people who host those centres."

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