As alleged details of Donald Trump's phone call with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull came to light on Thursday, and as Trump soon after tweeted about the "dumb deal!" on refugees, the rush began to dissect all the ramifications -- experts, analysts and insiders all began talking about the damage to the U.S.-Australia alliance, the political fallout and embarrassment for Turnbull, the latest sign of the erratic Trump presidency, the breaches in diplomatic protocol and even theories on who leaked the phone call, and why. It was easy to forget the people who would be most immediately and tangibly affected by the uncertainty over the planned Australia-U.S. refugee deal.
The 2000 refugees and asylum seekers currently sitting in limbo on Manus Island and Nauru.
"A few days ago we heard about Trump calling Turnbull and saying they will take us," Fahad, a refugee on Manus Island, told The Huffington Post Australia.
"Everyone was happy and positive but now they destroy our hope. From the beginning we didn't believe this deal because we know the Australian government are lying to everyone and killing us."
We don't know exactly how many people are currently on the Pacific island camps because of Australia's hardline immigration detention policy. The latest statistics from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, accurate as of November 30 last year, state 383 people were in immigration detention on Nauru and 871 on Manus Island, but this would not count those who have been granted refugee status and now live in the wider community on those islands. In announcing the refugee deal with the U.S. last November -- where people on Manus and Nauru would be sent to America and Central American refugees would come to Australia -- Turnbull said there were around 1600 people eligible for consideration under the deal.
The deal with the U.S. was to include 1250 of these people, but the actual number may eventually be far lower. The Washington Post reported Turnbull telling Trump that the U.S. simply had to consider these people through vetting processes, not actually admit them. The Post reported "Turnbull told Trump that to honor the agreement, the United States would not have to accept all of the refugees but only to allow each through the normal vetting procedures", meaning while the deal could be up to 1250 people, it may not be nearly that many in practise.
"I think the government is not honest enough for solving this problem and their plan was to waste time and play a game with the refugees and media," said Behrouz Boochani, an Iranian man on Manus.
"They have made a kind of torture by the deal and deliberately refused to give any details about the deal. If they really want to transfer the refugees to a safe place why did they not want to have negotiation with a country like Canada or New Zealand? It's really a logical question why they are insisting to have a deal with Donald Trump who is against refugees. We could see that in how he answered Australia."
I don't know why Aus gov insists on refugee deal with America. Trump will humiliate you, you will see— Behrouz Boochani (@BehrouzBoochani) February 2, 2017
Another man on Nauru, who goes by the name Nigel, said refugees and asylum seekers had been dismayed at reports of Trump's opposition to the refugee deal.
"People in Nauru are disappointed," he told HuffPost Australia.
"They want to get out of this hell."
Fahad, on Manus, said men there were also very upset.
"I wish Australian government learn from Canada and how to treat refugees, because we are refugees not criminals. We just want to live our life, not kill us slowly in detention," he said.
In response to the uncertainty over the deal, refugee groups in Australia are again reigniting their calls to resettle the Manus and Nauru refugees here. Under the #bringthemhere hashtag, organisers are rallying support on social media and calling for political action.
"This situation has reached crisis point, and immediate action must be taken," read an open letter signed by around 70 advocacy, church and community groups including Amnesty International, Oxfam, Human Rights Watch, World Vision, Uniting Church in Australia, St Vincent de Paul Society National Council and Save The Children.
"Beyond the reports of physical and sexual abuse, including of children; inadequate medical attention; suicides and attempted suicides; even a murder; the extinguishment of hope has pushed people to the edge. Many of these people have been recognised as refugees. We owe them protection and safety now."
"With the US resettlement deal in serious doubt, the most obvious and humane solution is to clear the camps and bring these people to Australia until a safe long term, appropriate outcome for them can be guaranteed...This is a crisis. We are calling on both major parties to form a bipartisan commitment to immediately evacuate the camps and bring these people to safety."
Boochani asked what was next for the refugees and asylum seekers on Manus and Nauru, if the deal with the U.S. is scuppered.
"The main question now is what is their plan for solving this problem? How many years do they want to keep us here?" he said.
"The government has to explain to people that what they want to do with 2000 refugees in the islands. I don't think the government has an answer for these questions."