At a news conference yesterday, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said that President Trump promised to honor a refugee resettlement deal arranged by President Obama. Hundreds of refugees held on the Pacific Islands of Nauru and Manus could go to the United States, but, as we hear from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute, details remain unclear.
At his news conference, Prime Minister Turnbull declined to say how many of the roughly 2000 detainees could expect resettlement in the US, or when. That, he said, is for the United States to decide.
Following President Trump’s harsh rhetoric on immigration and opposition to the resettlement deal from senior republicans in Congress, Prime Minister Turnbull expressed relief. “I thank President Trump for his commitment to honor that existing agreement.”
Turnbull also declined to join the chorus of Western leaders who criticized President Trump’s executive order restricting immigration from five predominantly Muslim countries. Indeed, one of the big questions about this deal, is how it squares with that order; Iranians form the largest single group in the controversial Australian run camps, which also include detainees from Iraq, Sudan and Somalia.
The Guardian Australia reported that an American immigration official visited the camp on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea on Friday and said that interviews for resettlement could begin next month. Guardian Australia cited sources on Manus as saying that further vetting could take from six to twelve months and that only those who qualify as refugees will be considered. That’s the great majority, but leaves out at least 400 people.
In what many see as a quid pro quo, Australia agreed last September to resettle refugees from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador now in camps in Costa Rica.