By: Valerie Johnston
In late 2016, Australia cut a deal with former U.S. President Barak Obama that included the U.S. resettling 1,250 refugees from Australian-run camps in Nauru and Manus Island. In exchange, Australia was set to welcome refugees from various parts of South America. However, after the election of current President Trump, the deal looked to be on shaky ground.
In addition to calling the arrangement a “dumb deal”, Trump’s administration emphasized the wording in the deal that allowed them to vet every refugee, and refuse any based on any grounds. In fact, in order to honour the agreement, the U.S. government would not have to accept any of the 1,250 agreed-upon refugees, according to the Trump administration.
This led to a halt in the proceedings earlier in 2017, but it does appear that Australia is pushing forward with the deal regardless. While the U.S. has begun the vetting process by collecting fingerprints from detainees on Nauru, department secretary Mike Pezzullo told the Senate that Australia was not seeking to arrange any similar deal with any other country at this time.
However, that has not stopped the government from continuing to suggest that it is seeking other arrangements come November, when the deal is due to be resettled. No details are being offered on these arrangements. Pezzullo did say that he does not believe the Trump administration will refuse to take any of the agreed-upon 1,250 refugees.
Even if the U.S. did take the full number, that would still leave over 200 refugees in need of resettling. Those refugees would have the option of settling in Cambodia, Papua New Guinea, or Nauru if they wished, but have been denied the option to resettle in Australia or New Zealand. The leading concern beyond the actions of President Trump is the fact that refugees could be left in Nauru and Manus indefinitely if no action is taken.