Refugees in Aussie camps get US op­tion

The Myanmar Times - - World -

REFUGEES held on re­mote Pa­cific camps af­ter try­ing to reach Aus­tralia by boat will be re­set­tled in the US in a “one-off” deal, a break­through that could see the fa­cil­i­ties closed.

Can­berra sends asy­lum seek­ers who try to reach Aus­tralia by boat to de­ten­tion fa­cil­i­ties on Pa­pua New Guinea’s Manus Is­land and Nauru.

“The ar­range­ments with the United States will of­fer the op­por­tu­nity for refugees, both on Nauru and Manus, to be re­set­tled,” Prime Min­is­ter Mal­colm Turn­bull said.

“It is a one-off agree­ment. It will not be re­peated.”

Suc­ces­sive Aus­tralian gov­ern­ments have sought to stem waves of boat mi­gra­tion by peo­ple from war-torn Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and the Mid­dle East, us­ing harsh poli­cies in­clud­ing turn­ing back the ves­sels, and strict se­crecy about op­er­a­tions on the high seas and at the camps.

The lat­est poli­cies by the cur­rent con­ser­va­tive govern­ment have largely stopped ar­rivals, but con­di­tions in the camps have been widely crit­i­cised.

Ac­tivists say asy­lum seek­ers suf­fer from men­tal health prob­lems due to pro­longed, in­def­i­nite de­ten­tion.

The UNHCR said the ar­range­ment was a “much-needed, longterm so­lu­tion” but warned that op­tions should be found for ev­ery­one on Manus and Nauru.

“This an­nounce­ment is full of holes. No time­frame. No num­bers,” added Daniel Webb from the Hu­man Rights Law Cen­tre, which has chal­lenged off­shore de­ten­tion in court.

“This ugly chap­ter in our his­tory only closes when ev­ery sin­gle man, woman and child suf­fer­ing at our govern­ment’s hand on Nauru and Manus is re­build­ing their lives in safety. No one can be left be­hind.”

The ar­range­ment fol­lowed the an­nounce­ment in Septem­ber that Aus­tralia would join a US-led pro­gram to re­set­tle Cen­tral Amer­i­can refugees at a Costa Rica cen­tre.

Mr Turn­bull could not say how many refugees would be of­fered US re­set­tle­ment or if the in­com­ing Don­ald Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion would agee.

Pres­i­dent-elect Trump had said that he would tighten im­mi­gra­tion, par­tic­u­larly for Mus­lims.

US Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry con­firmed the deal, adding that “we in the US have agreed to con­sider re­fer­rals from [UN refugee body] UNHCR on refugees now re­sid­ing in Nauru and in Pa­pua New Guinea”.

Im­mi­gra­tion Min­is­ter Peter Dut­ton said those whose ap­pli­ca­tions are re­jected are ex­pected to re­turn home.

Refugees who are of­fered the US move but re­ject it would be of­fered a 20-year Nauru visa, while any fu­ture boat ar­rivals will not be el­i­gi­ble for the deal. –

Photo: EPA

Mal­colm Turn­bull says this is a one­off agree­ment.

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