Australia strikes refugee resettlement agreement with US – November 2016
The Australian Government has reached a resettlement agreement with the United States for refugees currently in processing centres in Nauru and Manus Island.
Announcing the deal, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the agreement with the US would “not under any circumstance” be available to any future asylum seekers arriving by boat.
“The priority under this arrangement will be for resettlement of those who are most vulnerable, namely women, children and families,” he said.
US authorities would conduct their own assessment of refugees and decide which people are resettled in the US.
Refugees would need to satisfy standard requirements for admission into the US, including passing health and security checks.
“This process will take time and the resettlement will be gradual,” Mr Turnbull said.
“This arrangement is supported by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and we will continue to engage with UNHCR on its implementation.
He said Australia would continue to support the governments of Nauru and Papua New Guinea to return to their country of origin people assessed not to be refugees.
“Settlement in Australia will never be an option for those found to be refugees in regional processing centres nor for anyone who attempts to travel to Australia by boat in the future.”
Mr Turnbull said: “Australia’s border protection policy remains consistent and firm. Operation Sovereign Borders will continue to turn back people smuggling ventures where it is safe to do so and any illegal maritime arrivals to Australia will be sent to regional processing centres.
“The Government has reinforced our maritime assets in the waters to Australia’s north and increased our surveillance capabilities to ensure that any boats that attempt to come to Australia will be detected and turned back.
Fairfax Media reported: “Australia has deployed its largest maritime surveillance operation since World War II, as the Turnbull Government seeks to deter people smugglers from taking advantage of its ‘’one-off’’ refugee resettlement deal with the United States.
“After weeks of speculation, sparked by Australia’s commitment to accept South American refugees from a Costa Rica processing centre, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull confirmed he had entered into an agreement with the Obama administration to accept refugees languishing on Manus Island and Nauru.
“But the deal’s future under Donald Trump’s administration remains uncertain, with Mr Turnbull only saying ‘‘we deal with one administration at a time’. During the presidential campaign, President-elect Trump proposed banning all Muslim immigration,” the Fairfax report said.
‘‘There is only one President of the United States at a time,’’ Mr Turnbull said. ‘These arrangements have had a long run-up.
“The agreement was reached some time ago. There is a great deal of preparation and planning that has gone into it and, indeed, in leading up to this announcement.’’
Announcement of the agreement was held until the results of the US presidential election were known to avoid the matter becoming an election issue.
Details on how the deal will work remain scant; Mr Turnbull and Immigration Minister Peter Dutton could not say how many of the 1800 detainees across the two processing centres and those receiving medical care in Australia would be accepted under the deal.