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PM Key opens NZ door to boat people from Australia

WELLINGTON--New Zealand is to accept 150 refugees a year from Australia, Prime Minister John Key said Saturday to ease pressure on Canberra which is grappling with a surge in boat people heading to the region.

Key made the announcement at the end of talks with visiting Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard whose government last year faced a record number of more than 17,000 asylum seekers arriving by boat.

Gillard warned New Zealand's assistance should not be seen as a message of encouragement to boatpeople and Australia would continue to rigorously patrol its waters.

The 150 boatpeople to be taken by New Zealand would be people who have been approved as refugees in one of Australia's offshore processing centers, in the island state of Nauru or Manus in Papua New Guinea.

Key said they would be part of the annual quota of 750 refugees New Zealand takes as per its commitment to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

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