Refugee fears over Aus­tralia-US re­set­tle­ment plan

Muscat Daily - - WORLD -

Syd­ney, Aus­tralia - The abrupt de­par­ture of Amer­i­can of­fi­cials from an Aus­tralian Pa­cific is­land refugee camp has fanned fears among asy­lum-seek­ers that plans to re­set­tle them in the US may not go ahead, an ac­tivist group said on Sun­day.

Can­berra sends asy­lum-seek­ers who try to en­ter Aus­tralia by boat to camps on Nauru and Pa­pua New Guinea’s Manus Is­land - the con­di­tions there have been crit­i­cised by refugee ad­vo­cates and med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als.

The Aus­tralian gov­ern­ment struck a deal with Wash­ing­ton un­der former pres­i­dent Barack Obama to re­set­tle some of those refugees in the US.

But doubts over the ar­range­ment have per­sisted af­ter Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump this year re­port­edly lam­basted his Aus­tralian coun­ter­part Mal­colm Turn­bull dur­ing a phone call and at­tacked it as a ‘dumb deal’, be­fore agree­ing to go ahead with the pro­posal.

US Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity of­fi­cials had been as­sess­ing the asy­lum-seek­ers at Nauru as part of the ar­range­ment when they abruptly left the is­land on Fri­day and Sat­ur­day, Refugee Ac­tion Coali­tion spokesman Ian Rin­toul said, days af­ter the US passed its an­nual 50,000-refugee in­take cap.

“They’ve (the DHS of­fi­cials) given the peo­ple on Nauru no in­di­ca­tion that they are com­ing back,” Rin­toul said.

About 200 refugees on Nauru have un­der­gone in­ter­views and med­i­cal check-ups, while on Manus, some 70 had been through a sim­i­lar process, Rin­toul said. “Peo­ple are be­com­ing in­creas­ingly doubt­ful that there is any deal,” he added.

Aus­tralian For­eign Min­is­ter Julie Bishop said on Sun­day she was con­fi­dent the deal was still in place, ad­ding that the ‘mat­ter is pro­gress­ing as we ex­pected’.

“We have been given as­sur­ances by Pres­i­dent Trump and Vice-Pres­i­dent Pence and others, that the agree­ment will be ad- hered to,” Bishop told the Aus­tralian Broad­cast­ing Cor­po­ra­tion.

“And the (refugee cap) quota will roll over again on Oc­to­ber 1.”

The sit­u­a­tion is par­tic­u­larly acute on Manus, with the camp set to close by Oc­to­ber af­ter a PNG Supreme Court rul­ing de­clared that hold­ing peo­ple there was un­con­sti­tu­tional. Aus­tralian Im­mi­gra­tion Min­is­ter Peter Dut­ton said those on Manus would not be moved to Aus­tralia and re­lo­cated to a third coun­try.

This file photo shows Refugee Ac­tion Coali­tion spokesman Ian Rin­toul speak­ing dur­ing a demon­stra­tion, in Syd­ney on Au­gust 14, 2013

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