Australian government reaches deal with US to resettle refugees currently on offshore camps

November 13, 2016 6:00 pm

A view of an Australian-run refugee detention camp on the Pacific island of Nauru. (File photo)

The Australian government says it has signed an agreement with the United States to resettle an unknown number of the refugees currently being held at offshore Australian detention facilities to US territory.
’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull made the announcement on Sunday, saying that the deal would only apply to those who have received positive refugee determinations at the camps on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island and the tiny South Pacific island nation of Nauru.
The Australian government has been diverting the refugees arriving illegally by sea to the facilities on Manus and Nauru islands and keeping them in effective detention. The practice has been met with outcry by international rights groups.
“The arrangements with the United States will offer the opportunity for refugees, both on Nauru and Manus, to be resettled,” Turnbull said, adding that, “It is a one-off agreement and will not be repeated.”
The Australian premier also said that the transfer of women, children and families would be prioritized.
Turnbull did not reveal any information on the number of the refugees expected to be included in the plan, the timeline for their resettlement, or where exactly they would be resettled to.
The United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) said the Sunday announcement was a “much-needed, long-term solution,” warning that the arrangement should be applied to everyone on Manus and Nauru.
Daniel Webb, the director of legal advocacy at Australia’s Human Rights Law Center, also said, “This announcement is full of holes. No time frame. No numbers.”
“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 finally rebuilding their lives in safety. No one can be left behind,” he said.
According to a report by the immigration department in Australia earlier this month, some 675 refugees on Manus and 941 on Nauru — out of more than 2,000 applicants — have been successful in obtaining initial or final refugee status. They may well be on their way to resettlement in the US based on the new deal, although little information has been revealed about how the agreement will work.

This image, taken on April 30, 2016 in Sydney, Australia, shows rights activists taking part in a candle light vigil for the refugees who set themselves on fire on the remote Pacific island of Nauru. (Photo by AFP)

According to Australian law, anyone who is intercepted while attempting to reach the mainland by boat is sent to detention camps on the islands of Manus and Nauru to have potential asylum requests processed.
The camps have, however, turned into perpetual limbos, where the refugees face severe misconduct and sexual assault. There have been reports of refugees self-immolating out of desperation.
On August 24, British daily The Guardian published an 8,000-page report, known as the Nauru files, said to be leaked from the Australian-run Nauru camp, detailing over 2,000 cases of sexual abuse and mistreatment against refugee children and women at the site between May 2013 and October 2015.
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