POLITICS

Just 50 Refugees On Manus, Nauru To Initially Resettle In Trump's America

The Trump-imposed 'extreme vetting' has limited the number initially accepted.

20/09/2017 10:15 AM AEST | Updated 20/09/2017 12:13 PM AEST
Reuters
Asylum-seekers look through a fence at the Manus Island detention centre in Papua New Guinea.

The refugee 'swap' deal between Australia and the U.S. was the subject of the infamous and explosive phone call between President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, and it seems the much-vaunted 'extreme vetting' measures have dramatically tamped down the number of people to be resettled in America.

A grand total of 50 refugees from Australian-run detention centres on Manus Island and Nauru, or who have elected to resettle in those communities, have been accepted to resettle in the U.S. in the first round of the controversial refugee 'swap' deal.

Turnbull announced in media interviews on Wednesday that approximately 50 refugees -- around 25 each who either live in the processing centres or in the wider community on the two islands -- had been accepted by American authorities after 'extreme vetting' of their backgrounds. Refugees on Manus have told HuffPost Australia they have appointments later on Wednesday to hear the outcome of their individual applications to be resettled in America.

"It's all subject to the United States' very, very thorough vetting, their extreme vetting. But we look forward to more refugees, people who have been judged to be refugees on Nauru and Manus, to be taken to the United States," Turnbull told Channel 7's Sunrise.

"There will be about 25 from both Manus and Nauru going to the United States. I just want to thank again President Trump for continuing with that arrangement."

Turnbull said this was "the first stage" of the program, and expressed hopes more would be taken in future.

The small proportion confirms refugee and advocate fears that the U.S. would settle very few people due to Trump's opposition to the "dumb deal", as he called it. Leaked transcripts of the infamous phone call between the President and Turnbull revealed the Australian PM saying "it [the deal] does not require you to take any... You can decide to take them or to not take them after vetting. You can decide to take 1,000 or 100. It is entirely up to you. The obligation is to only go through the process."

The latest update from Operation Sovereign Borders on August 3 found that 730 people, or 71 percent of those on Manus, had so far been found to be genuine refugees, with more cases still to be decided, while 1053 people on Nauru -- 87 percent -- were ruled to be refugees. Documents from the Australian Parliamentary Library, accurate to October 2016, reported 79 percent of those on Nauru and 82 percent on Manus had been found to be genuine refugees to that point.

The latest update from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, as of July 31, showed there were 371 people in the Nauru centre and 791 in Manus facility, for a total of 1162 people.

The refugee deal, negotiated between Turnbull and former U.S. President Obama, was the subject of the infamous explosive phone call between Trump and the Australian PM in February.

"I hate taking these people. I guarantee you they are bad. That is why they are in prison right now. They are not going to be wonderful people who go on to work for the local milk people," Trump said on the call.

"I think it is a horrible deal, a disgusting deal that I would have never made. It is an embarrassment to the United States of America."

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