Sydney (dpa) – Australia is seeking a deal with the Philippines to take refugees held in Australian-run detention centres, the government confirmed Friday, as local media said the potential agreement could be worth over 100 million US dollars.
Australia is talking with other nations in South-East Asia on a “regional arrangement” to distribute refugees who were intercepted trying to reach Australia by boat, and were held in offshore centres on Nauru and Manus Island off Papua New Guinea, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said.
Australia signed a 50-million-dollar aid package with Cambodia last year as part of a deal to accept refugees, but so far only four people held in Nauru have agreed to settle there.
Around 1600 asylum seekers are being held on Nauru and Manus Island, many of them for several years.
Dutton told reporters that talks with the Philippine government had been going on for months.
“We have been very open to discussions for a long period of time with those partners because we have been very clear about the fact that people on Nauru and on Manus, who have sought to come to our country illegally by boat, won’t be settling in Australia,” Dutton said.
Australia was in “final negotiations” over a deal with the Philippines, The Australian newspaper reported Friday, without citing specific sources. It put the value of the deal at 150 million dollars (109 million US dollars).