Nauru President Baron Waqa says he has asked New Zealand to grant visitor visas for up to 450 Nauru refugees so they can travel to New Zealand, according to newspaper The Australian.
Waqa is also reported to have personally brokered a deal for New Zealand to accept a select group of 80 refugees from Nauru, but Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway said no such deal exists.
The requests for visitor visas, according to The Australian, included a note from the UN advocating for refugees' rights to travel outside of the country in which they were processed.
They were reportedly made to Pacific nations excluding Australia, but only Fiji has so far agreed.
The report comes just after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern met her Australian counterpart Scott Morrison in Singapore.
She is expecting to speak to Morrison again between East Asia Summit events in Singapore, or at Apec at the weekend in Papua New Guinea, where she intends to raise New Zealand's offer to take 150 refugees from Nauru and Manus Island.
Lees-Galloway said any applications for visitor visas, including from refugees, are assessed on a case-by-case basis against standard criteria by Immigration NZ.
He said in 2016 the Government of Nauru wrote to all Pacific Island Forum countries asking governments to recognise official refugee travel documents issued by Nauru as Nauruan passports.
"New Zealand recognises valid refugee travel documents, in line with UN obligations," Lees-Galloway said.
The article in The Australian said that Waqa was proud to have brokered a deal for New Zealand to take a select cohort of 80 of Nauru's refugees, but Lees-Galloway refuted this.
"There have been no discussions with Nauru in which New Zealand offered to take a 'select cohort of 80 of Nauru's refugees'," he said.
Immigration NZ has been asked for comment.
Waqa told The Australian that refugees were encouraged to travel outside of Nauru, but not to Australia.
"But some have travelled to Fiji on visas. We give them a Nauru passport, a special passport. And so they are free to move around.''
Waqa later confirmed that New Zealand was one of the nations that was yet to agree to Nauru's request to allow its refugees entry on visitor visas.
Amanda Vanstone, who oversaw Nauru's first stint as a destination for Australia's boat arrivals when she was immigration minister in the Howard government, told The Australian that New Zealand seemed to be protecting its borders.
"Welcome to our world. They obviously don't want their borders crashed either."
Nauru previously issued a special passport to a Pakistani refugee living on Nauru that he used to travel to Fiji, which issued him a holiday visa. He went there with his girlfriend to celebrate his 21st birthday, The Australian reported.
He returned, and was now settled in the US under the deal struck by the Australian Government with Barack Obama and honoured by Donald Trump.