By 1News and Anna Whyte

An almost decade-old offer from New Zealand to resettle 150 refugees a year from Australia is finally being agreed to by both nations.

It will mean that 150 refugees either residing in Nauru, or temporarily in Australia in regional processing, will be able to come to New Zealand each year, for three years.

They will also have to meet New Zealand’s Refugee Quota Programme requirements and be referred to New Zealand by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

It was first offered nine years ago in 2013.

UNHCR Regional Representative Adrian Edwards said as there were 112 refugees and asylum seekers on Nauru, and 1100 others brought to Australia for medical reasons, with half in community detention and the rest on bridging visas, "the arrangement will not be sufficient to cover the needs of all".

There were also 104 still in Papua New Guinea not included in the intake.

"UNHCR and New Zealand have agreed to work separately on referrals of eligible individuals from there. We are grateful to New Zealand in this regard," Edwards said.

"UNHCR is not a party to the arrangement announced today. Nonetheless in light of the compelling humanitarian circumstances, and in view of our firm belief that every refugee should have a properly durable solution, we have indicated our in-principle readiness to facilitate the process of resettlement referrals to New Zealand," Edwards said.

"For the refugees and asylum seekers, the prolonged uncertainty of their situation has taken an enormous toll. Our hope is that through this arrangement as many as possible will find a solution to their plights and be supported on the path to recovery."

The 150 places are part of New Zealand's annual 1500 refugee intake - which New Zealand has not fulfilled and is not likely to bring in the full intake by the middle of this year.

Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi said he hoped we would see some of the refugees arrive in New Zealand by the end of the year.

When asked if Australia would stop the refugees resettled in New Zealand from ever living in Australia, Faafoi said "that's an issue for Australia".

"We've always said if we take people on when they arrive they are permanent residents of New Zealand and after five years are likely to become citizens. We want them to make sure they have all the rights that every other New Zealand citizen has, whether or not Australia allows those individuals through their own border is a decision for them."

Human rights activist and refugee detained on Manus, who was released last year, Thanush Selvarasa said the decision was good, but also "too late".

"We have been suffering for nine years but it is a good decision.

"They also have to involve PNG people and people transferred under the Medevac law, we are all in the same situation. Everyone needs permanent resettlement."

Australia's Asylum Seeker Resource Centre advocacy director Jana Favero said there has been "nine years of harm and wasted lives because this deal was not accepted when first offered".

"This deal will also still leave behind hundreds of people who sought safety in Australia."

The Green Party also welcomed the deal, but pushed for the 150 allocation to be on top of New Zealand's 1500 refugee intake.

Last month Australia said it had agreed in principle to New Zealand's almost decade-old offer to resettle 150 of their offshore refugees a year. But despite recent discussions, New Zealand said "we're not quite there yet".

Faafoi said earlier this month that, "Australia and New Zealand officials are working closely to put some final touches on an arrangement".

"It's no secret we've had the offer open for a long time and towards the end of last year that gathered some momentum, so when they're ready and we're ready, officials are working on some of the final touches so that long standing offer can come to fruition."

Asked if that could mean refugees currently in detention or in offshore detention centres may actually come to New Zealand, Faafoi said the timing "is not necessarily all of our making".

"Officials are talking about dotting the I's and crossing the T's, and again it's no surprise the offer has been on the table for some time."

Australian PM Scott Morrison in 2018 argued that should it accept New Zealand's offer, refugees could use New Zealand as a "back door" into Australia.

Behrouz Boochani, who now lives in New Zealand after spending six years detained in an Australian offshore detention after fleeing persecution in Iran for his journalism, told 1News last year that refugees would not use New Zealand as a "back door" into Australia.

"I think that is just an excuse. I think no one should accept that."

Boochani was held at the Manus Island detention centre by Australia from 2013 – the same year New Zealand first offered to take 150 refugees a year until either there was no one left in the offshore detention centres, or New Zealand rescinded the offer. The offer had never been taken up.

In 2013, Australia announced it would not let refugees arriving by boat settle on its shores. Many of them were fleeing persecution and violence. In 2016 Australia and the US struck a deal where the US would take 1250 refugees from offshore centres.

In 2017, the deal was at the centre of a high-profile spat between then-President Trump and then Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull, with Trump reportedly hanging up on the Australian PM and calling it a "dumb deal".

Australian officials said at the time New Zealand's offer may be considered once the US deal was done.

Various reasons have been given for Australia to not take up the offer, including that some people may use New Zealand as a 'backdoor' to get into Australia, with New Zealand previously not willing to place additional rules on refugees with former deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters saying it could create two-tier of citizenship.

Top Image: In 2016, protesters gathered at Town Hall Square in Sydney to demonstrate against offshore detention. (File photo) Photo: Getty Images

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