A group of 50 refugees currently held at detention centers for asylees on remote islands of the Pacific will soon be arriving in the United States. According to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull of Australia, the first group will come within weeks.
Turnbull’s comments of September 20 revealed for the first time an official timetable for the resettlement of as many as 1,250 persons being held by Australia on Nauru -- an island republic -- and on Papua New Guinea’s Manus island. This comes as part of a deal struck by Barack Obama with the Australian government in 2016. President Donald Trump once described Obama’s deal as “dumb,” but will nevertheless honor. Turnbull said in a video statement, “There will be about 25 from both Manus and Nauru will be going to the United States and I just want to thank again President Trump for continuing with that arrangement.”
The first to be told of resettlement to the US were approximately about 25 men Bangladesh, Sudan, as well as Muslims from Myanmar currently held on Manus island. A similar number will on Nauru will be told on Thursday. About 2,000 men, women and children are held on Manus island and Nauru, the majority of whom have been awarded refugee status by the two island countries.
Iranians currently account for approximately one-third of the refugees sheltered on Manus, but officials say that they amount to only 10 percent of the refugees interviewed for resettlement to the US thus far. Processing has focused on persons coming from countries with closer ties to the US than Iran and that have applications easier to verify.
Australia has been under pressure to resettle the refugees on Manus Island, following criticisms of the conditions there. Also, the detention center is due to close on October 31. There are 800 male refugees currently there who would need alternative arrangements if they are not resettled by then.
Australia’s immigration has come under criticism from local immigration advocates. Refugees intercepted at sea are sent for processing at the Manus island and Nauru camps instead of being immediately taken to the Australian mainland. They are told they will never be settled in Australia.