Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has refused to back down from his “Armani refugees” comments.
Speaking in London, Mr Dutton promised to continue to make sure Australia wouldn’t take in economic refugees and backed his comments about some of the 54 who had left the processing centre on Manus Island for the US.
Mr Dutton told Sydney radio host Ray Hadley on Thursday that a photograph of the group published by News Corp this week looked like a fashion show on a Paris or New York catwalk.
“Somebody once said to me the world’s biggest collection of Armani jeans and handbags was up on Nauru waiting for people to collect it when they depart,” Mr Dutton told 2GB radio.
Mr Dutton, asked about an image of those preparing to depart Port Moresby, said a lot of people who ended up in the island camps had not come from war-ravaged areas but were instead economic refugees.
“We have been taken for a ride, I believe, by a lot of the advocates and people within Labor and the Greens who want you to believe this is a terrible existence,” Mr Dutton said.
When asked if he would back down from his comments Mr Dutton gave a blunt “no”, and reasserted that many of the refugees had “got on a boat, (and) paid a people smuggler a lot of money”.
“I think you can look very closely to see some people, who paid people smugglers up to $20,000, these aren’t people who are the most impoverished in the world.
“These are people that have displaced the most impoverished or those that are facing certain persecution and sought to come to our country.
“We have been very clear about the fact that they will not settle in our country, so we are critical of some of those people, have been consistently critical and I am not going to deviate from that.”
Given the tough stance Mr Dutton has taken, there was a suggestion the US and particularly President Donald Trump might be embarrassed by taking those refugees in, potentially straining the relationship with the US on immigration further.
Not so, said Mr Dutton, as the decision on who the US takes in is entirely in its hands.
“I want to thank President Trump for honouring the deal that was entered into under President (Barack) Obama. We will continue to work with the United States,” Mr Dutton said.
“President Trump will conduct the vetting of each of these individuals and the US will make judgments about each and will make a decision about who comes to their country.”
Mr Dutton remained confident the US would take more refugees from Manus Island, which he is adamant will be shut down on October 31.
“We hope that those interviews (on Manus) continue and we know that they will, and the United States will honour the agreement,” he said.
“That will see many more people move to the United States but we are very clear that the deal won’t apply to any future arrivals.”