US to re­set­tle Aus­tralia’s refugees lan­guish­ing on is­lands

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - NEWS - By Rod McGuirk

>>The United States has agreed to re­set­tle an un­spec­i­fied num­ber of refugees lan­guish­ing in Pa­cific is­land camps in a deal that is ex­pected to in­spire more asy­lum seek­ers to at­tempt to reach Aus­tralia by boat, of­fi­cials said on Sun­day.

Prime Min­is­ter Mal­colm Turn­bull would not say whether he had dis­cussed the deal with Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump dur­ing their tele­phone con­ver­sa­tion on Thurs­day. The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion had agreed to re­set­tle refugees among al­most 1,300 asy­lum seek­ers held at Aus­tralia’s ex­pense on the is­land na­tions of Nauru and Pa­pua New Guinea.

“We deal with one ad­min­is­tra­tion at a time and there is only one pres­i­dent of the United States at a time,” Turn­bull told re­porters, adding that the deal was reached “some time ago.”

Trump has called for a mora­to­rium or tight re­stric­tions on Mus­lim im­mi­gra­tion. Most of the asy­lum seek­ers are Mus­lims from the Mid­dle East, Africa and Asia.

Aus­tralia re­fuses to re­set­tle any refugee who has ar­rived by boat since the date the tough pol­icy was an­nounced on July 19, 2013.

Aus­tralia pays Nauru and Pa­pua New Guinea to house boat ar­rivals and has been search­ing for coun­tries that will re­set­tle them.

Few refugees have ac­cepted of­fers to re­set­tle in Pa­pua New Guinea and Cam­bo­dia be­cause most hope that Aus­tralia will even­tu­ally take them in.

Turn­bull said the United States had only agreed to re­set­tle refugees al­ready on Nauru and Pa­pua New Guinea. Refugees who ar­rive in the fu­ture would not be sent to the United States.

“We an­tic­i­pate that peo­ple smug­glers will seek to use this agree­ment as a mar­ket­ing op­por­tu­nity to tempt vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple onto these per­ilous sea jour­neys,” Turn­bull said.

“We have put in place the largest and most ca­pa­ble mar­itime sur­veil­lance and re­sponse fleet Aus­tralia has ever de­ployed,” he added.

Aus­tralian Bor­der Force Com­mis­sioner Ro­man Quaed­vlieg said ships had been po­si­tioned to turn boats back to In­done­sia if asy­lum seek­ers at­tempt to reach Aus­tralia in the hope of be­ing sent to the U.S.

No peo­ple smug­gling op­er­a­tion has suc­cess­fully de­liv­ered asy­lum seek­ers to Aus­tralia by boat since July 2014, but 29 boats have been turned back to In­done­sia by the Aus­tralian navy.

Turn­bull an­nounced at Obama’s Lead­ers’ Sum­mit on Refugees in Septem­ber that Aus­tralia would par­tic­i­pate in the U.S.-led pro­gram to re­set­tle Cen­tral Amer­i­can refugees from a camp in Costa Rica. Aus­tralia would also in­crease its refugee in­take by 5,000 to 18,750 a year.

Turn­bull said at the time that the agree­ment to re­set­tle Hon­durans and El Sal­vadore­ans was “not linked to any other re­set­tle­ment dis­cus­sions” in­volv­ing Aus­tralia’s refugees get­ting to the U.S.

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