POLITICS

Australia-U.S. Refugee Swap In Doubt, White House Confirms

Trump 'still considering' deal, according to official statement.

02/02/2017 10:43 AM AEDT | Updated 02/02/2017 3:33 PM AEDT
Fairfax Media
Australia's refugee deal with the U.S. is in doubt.

UPDATE: President Trump has thrown the refugee swap into doubt, tweeting it was a "dumb deal!" even after the U.S. embassy in Canberra said it was definitely locked in.

EARLIER: Despite repeated assurances from Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, the Australia-U.S. refugee swap is reportedly still in doubt as President Trump is "still considering" the deal.

In farcical events on Wednesday, White House press secretary Sean Spicer seemed to confirm that the deal was still firmly on, before another White House source told the ABC the swap -- where Australia would take an as-yet-unconfirmed number of Central American refugees in exchange for the U.S. taking up to 1250 people on Nauru and Manus Island -- was not locked in.

"We've just had a call from a different person at the White House, not Sean Spicer but another spokesperson wanting to clarify... the President himself is still considering whether to actually go ahead with the deal, has not fully decided whether to do that," Daniel told ABC 24 on Wednesday.

The reports were shrugged off by PM Turnbull on Wednesday, but the ABC has now reported an official White House statement confirming that Trump was still looking at the deal.

"The President is still considering whether or not he will move forward with this deal at this time," the statement read, according to the ABC.

Journalist Zoe Daniel also reported she had received a second statement, from the U.S. State Department, saying the deal was already locked in.

Turnbull shrugged off the claims on 7.30 on Wednesday night, taking aim at the "standards of journalism" around reporting on the swap, saying information from this second White House source was "anonymous and no-one has seen them".

"Well it is certainly agreed to yes. It is agreed to by the President as I said in the piece you had earlier, in our discussion on the weekend and it was confirmed by his spokesman in the White House earlier today," Turnbull said.

"We have to raise the standards of journalism a little bit here. We have a conversation between the Prime Minister and the President In which the President gives an assurance. We have a confirmation of that assurance given by the Prime Minister's spokesman in the White House briefing room. That's what I am basing my remarks on, and I think that's more reliable than some of the reports we've seen in the press."

We've contacted the Prime Minister's office and Immigration Minister Peter Dutton for comment.

More to come.

More On This Topic