Hardly anyone saw this coming. Now, refugees languishing on Manus Island and Nauru will be offered resettlement in the United States. In the new deal struck under a “one-off” arrangement with the US government, the 1800 detainees will be encouraged to return home, seek resettlement in the US or face life in the Nauruan community indefinitely.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull confirmed the refugee resettlement agreement with the US this morning, but did not provide any details on timeframes or the number of people involved. The deal will not apply to future refugees but only to those currently on Nauru and Manus Island, reports ABC News. “It is a one-off agreement — it will not be repeated,” Mr Turnbull spoke in Canberra alongside Immigration Minister Peter Dutton.
“There will be American officials from Homeland Security coming to Australia to begin the process in the next few days.”
As of October 31, there were 872 people in the processing centre on Manus Island and 390 people in Nauru’s centre.
Mr Turnbull would not be drawn on the number of refugees that would be resettled as part of the arrangement, but he said the priority was “very much on the most vulnerable” — in particular, families on Nauru.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said Labor had not been briefed on the agreement, but welcomed the announcement.
“Labor would be hypocritical if we didn’t welcome this because this is the very thing we wanted with the Malaysia solution,” he said.
‘Let this be a message’
Mr Dutton also confirmed the Australian Government was in the final stages of negotiation with Nauru for a 20-year visa will apply to people who refuse the settlement offer in the US.
“We still rely on regional processing, which is why Nauru will remain in its current status forever,” he said.”Let that be a very clear message to all people that you will not step foot on Australian soil.”
The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) welcomed the agreement but said it was not party to it and added that it remained “gravely concerned” about the fate of all vulnerable individuals in Papua New Guinea and Nauru.