Canberra — President Donald Trump had agreed to keep an Obama
administration promise to resettle refugees languishing in Pacific island camps
despite the US toughening its stance on Muslim immigration, the Australian
prime minister said on Monday.
had agreed that during a 25-minute telephone conversation on Sunday to accept
an unspecified number of refugees as promised in the final months of the
previous administration, ending weeks of uncertainty, Prime Minister Malcolm
thank President Trump for his commitment to honour
that existing agreement," Turnbull told reporters. He declined to say how
many refugees might be resettled in the United States.
Obama administration had agreed to resettle refugees among the almost 1 300
asylum seekers held on the island nations
of Nauru and Papua New Guinea. Another 370 who came to Australia for medical
treatment and then refused to return to the islands would also be eligible.
the asylum seekers are Muslims from the Middle East, Africa and Asia.
refuses to resettle any refugee who has arrived by boat since the date the
tough policy was announced on July 19, 2013, and pays Nauru and Papua New
Guinea to house them and has been searching for countries that will resettle them.
refugees have accepted offers to resettle in Papua New Guinea and Cambodia
because most hope that Australia will eventually take them in.
Department of Homeland Security officials have already begun screening asylum
seekers on Nauru, and Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said on Monday that the
screening "could take some time."
No comment on immigration order
declined to comment on Trump's immigration order that effects travel to the
United States for people from seven Muslim-majority countries. Turnbull said no
Australian had sought consular assistance over the order, which has sowed chaos
and outrage across the United States with travellers
detained at airports and protesters demanding the order be changed.
not my job, as prime minister of Australia to run a commentary on the domestic
policies of other countries," Turnbull said.
refugee who refuses to go to the United States would be given a 20-year visa to
stay on Nauru, a tiny impoverished atoll with a population of 10 000 people.
Refugee Council of Australia, an advocacy group, has welcomed the deal as a
first step in ending the indefinite detention of asylum seekers on the islands.
The London-based rights group Amnesty International has accused Australia of
taking "an extreme step in shirking responsibility."
has said the most vulnerable refugees would be given priority.