US deal inadequate and uncertain

| June 28, 2017 | Reply

The Coalition government’s resettlement deal with the US is an admission that Manus and Nauru are a dead end. But the band-aid deal is inadequate and uncertain.

The election of racist Donald Trump as President has put a question mark over how many of the refugees the US will accept. Progress has been appallingly slow. When the second lot of transfers were completed at the end of February 2018, just 230 people on Manus and Nauru had made it to the US in the 15 months since the deal was announced. This leaves around 1800 refugees and asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru.

The White House has confirmed that the US has set a cap of 1250 refugees, though whether even that number will be accepted is unclear. This means that, even in a best case scenario, hundreds of people are going to be left behind by the deal. Australia’s cruel offshore detention regime will remain in place.

Trump’s executive order aimed at restricting refugees and Muslim migrants from the US showed his racism

Worse, the most recent lot of interviews with US officials in May saw all Iranian, Somali, Sudanese and Iraqi refugees, bar one, rejected for US resettlement. These are the exact same countries barred under Trump’s travel ban. While the travel ban has now officially expired, it is clear that it remains unofficially in place. Iranians make up the largest single nationality group in the offshore camps.

Malcolm Turnbull has said it could take until the end of 2019 to complete the process – which means two more years of hell for refugees who have already been imprisoned for three years.

More questions

Questions also remain about the 350 vulnerable asylum seekers and refugees brought to Australia for serious medical issues, or because they have been raped, or assaulted. They are cruelly being told they must go back to Nauru and wait to be considered for transfer to the US.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton now says it is a “myth” there are any other countries for refugee resettlement options for those left behind by the US deal. Over the last five years there have been failed attempts to negotiate with Kyrgystan and the Philippines. Dutton has also refused New Zealand’s offer to accept 150 of the refugees. The government must stop shirking its responsibility and stop paying millions of dollars to bribe poorer neighbouring countries to take refugees from our detention centres (like the six people who went to Cambodia in exchange for $55 million).

A majority of Australians now support the idea that refugees on Manus and Nauru should be brought to Australia. We must continue to insist that they have the right to come here.

The strength of the refugee campaign pushed Turnbull into announcing the resettlement deal with the US. We need to keep fighting until Manus and Nauru are shut for good. It’s time to bring them here now.

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Category: Fact sheet

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