58 refugees from Manus Island in Papua New Guinea are on their way to new homes in the United States. The men have been held in Australian-run detention camps, many for more than four years. Another group of 154 men, women and children are expected to follow in February from Australia’s other-off shore camp in Nauru. We have details from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute.
Amid the battle over immigration in Washington DC, progress on the deal reached with Australia on the relocation of as many as 1,250 refugees has been extremely slow. Last fall, a first contingent of 54 arrived in the United States; delays are blamed on vetting of the refugees, most of them from Afghanistan and Pakistan.
With their departure, about 2,000 detainees remain. 800 men on Manus, 1200 men, women and children in Nauru. All of them tried to reach Australia on rickety boats. And Canberra refuses to resettle any in Australia, to, it says, deter dangerous sea crossings. The off-shore detention camps drew world-wide condemnation for inhumane conditions.
The Obama administration made the deal, partly on humanitarian grounds, and partly to help its ally Australia.
In return, Canberra agreed to accept refugees from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador living in American-run camps in Costa Rica. So far, about 30 of them have been resettled in Australia.
Refugee advocates in Australia criticize progress as far too slow; Ian Rintoul of the Refugee Action Coalition told the BBC: “We are very happy that some people have got to the U.S., but it begs the question of how many people have been left behind.”
Many of those remaining are from Iran; under President Trump’s controversial immigration policy, no immigrants from Iran will be accepted in the United States.