US to resettle 50 refugees from Australia's controversial offshore centers
A group of 50 refugees housed in Australia's controversial offshore detention centers in Nauru and Papua New Guinea (PNG), are the first to be accepted by the US under a resettlement deal. In 2016, the Obama administration struck a deal with Australia for the US to take up to 1,250 refugees. President Donald Trump previously said he'd honor the deal, despite calling it "dumb."
Australia has a controversial policy to refuse entry to any refugees who attempt to unofficially enter its territory by boat. Such individuals are intercepted and housed in Nauru and PNG's Manus Island detention centers. The refugees reportedly live in appalling conditions in these centers, where abuse is widely prevalent. The UN and multiple rights groups have criticized Australia's policy and the detention centers.
"There will be about 25 from both Manus and Nauru will be going to the United States and I just want to thank again President Trump for continuing with that arrangement," said Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull.
"The small amount of people who've gotten answers, they're quite happy because they're disgusted with Australia and eager to get to the US and somewhere they think is safe after four years of being illegally held," said a Refugee Action Coalition representative. "However, it's bittersweet. The large majority of people at the centers are still waiting to hear and are worried about their futures."
The Australian government said the detention centers house 1,162 asylum seekers. The resettlement agreement with the US prioritizes the most vulnerable refugees, including women, children, and families. The looming closure of the Manus detention center on October 31 has increased pressure on the resettlement process. Australia said the remaining refugees will be sent back to their home countries or resettled in PNG.