AUSTRALIA POLITICS: Australia Will Accept Dozen Central American Refugees Within Next Few Months: Sources

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By Politicoscope July 25, 2017 15:19
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Canberra pledged to take an unspecified number of Central American refugees under a deal struck with US president Barack Obama late last year.

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AUSTRALIA POLITICS: Australia Will Accept Dozen Central American Refugees Within Next Few Months: Sources

Australia will accept several dozen Central American refugees within the next few months, two sources familiar with the process told Reuters, the first transfers under a controversial refugee swap arrangement agreed with the United States.

Canberra pledged to take an unspecified number of Central American refugees under a deal struck with US president Barack Obama late last year.

In exchange, Washington said it would accept up to 1250 asylum seekers held in Australian immigration centres on Manus Island and Nauru that Australia wants to close.

A group of approximately 30 refugees from El Salvador currently being held in Costa Rica will move to Australia in the next couple of months, the two sources said, with a second group of a similar size to follow shortly afterwards.

“The group have been vetted and will likely move in the [northern autumn],” said one source, who was not authorised to speak to media about the arrangements.

A spokesman for Immigration Minister Peter Dutton declined to comment.

Officials at United States Citizenship and Immigrations Services (USCIS) and the State Department’s Population, Refugees and Migration bureau did not respond to requests for comment outside regular office hours. The US embassy in Canberra did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The transfer of the Salvadoran refugees to Australia will focus attention on US steps to uphold its end of the agreement, described by US President Donald Trump as a “dumb deal”.

None of the refugees on Manus or Nauru have been approved to move to the US yet. Earlier this month, US officials halted screening interviews after the United States reached its annual refugee intake cap.

Point of tension
There are about 200 refugees in Costa Rica as part of a program set up by Mr Obama last year for people deemed too vulnerable to remain in their Central American homelands. Once vetted for criminal associations, including gangs, they are eligible for resettlement in the US, while others can be transferred to third countries as part of a United Nations scheme.

The Trump administration has said it would honour the swap agreement to maintain its strong relationship with Australia, subject to the refugees satisfying strict vetting checks.

Trump’s initial resistance to the deal triggered a fractious phone call with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull earlier this year.

Turnbull, under pressure in opinion polls and from within his own party, can ill afford for the United States to renege on the agreement, said Sean Kelly, an adviser to former prime ministers Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard.

“The deal has become yet another test of [Turnbull’s] leadership,” Mr Kelly said. “If it fails, that will be a big black mark against him, and he knows that.”

Australia’s hardline immigration policy requires asylum seekers intercepted at sea to be sent for processing at the camps on Manus and Nauru.

The system, criticised by the UN and human rights groups, has cost taxpayers $4.9 billion since it was introduced in 2013, Australian officials said earlier this month.

Refugees are told they will never be settled in Australia.

Australia had hoped to have the bulk of the refugees resettled in the United States by the end of October, when the centre on Manus will close after a PNG court ruling.

– Reuters



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Politicoscope
By Politicoscope July 25, 2017 15:19
Since You’re Here, We Would Like to ask You for Help
There are more readers worldwide reading the Politicoscope daily news content than ever before. Unlike many other news media organisations that charge their readers subscription fees for the same daily news content and features we offer you for free, we do not charge all our readers to pay any fee. We depend on online advertising to generate the revenues to fund all these great news content and exclusive features provided to you for free. Currently, advertising revenues are quickly falling which is affecting our ability to offer you free online news content.
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