New Zealand originally did not want to take any of the Tamil refugees who refused to leave the Oceanic Viking, but a spokeswoman for Immigration Minister Jonathan Coleman said 13 would be accepted – subject to checks – as part of the country’s regular refugee program.
New Zealand was not prepared to be part of a bilateral situation and take people directly off the Oceanic Viking, the spokeswoman said.
“Following discussions at prime ministerial level, New Zealand indicated to the UNHCR [United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] that it would be prepared to consider refugees from the Oceanic Viking as part of its overall quota of 750,” the spokeswoman said.
“As such, New Zealand has agreed to consider 13 UN-mandated refugees, subject to New Zealand security checks.”
The refugees were part of a group of 78 Sri Lankans who were rescued from a sinking boat by the Australians in Indonesia’s search-and-rescue zone in October, as they attempted to reach Australia.
The refugees had refused to get off the Oceanic Viking, insisting they be taken to Australia.
The month-long stand-off ended only after the Rudd Government promised to resettle the refugees within four to 12 weeks.
All but 16 have already left an Australian-funded immigration detention centre on Indonesia’s Bintan island ahead of resettlement.