Some 1800 refugees in Australia’s notorious Nauru and Manus Island detention centres could be about to find new homes in the US, Canada and other countries.
The Australian reports Australia and the US are poised to announce an immigration arrangement after months of negotiations.
It’s understood the Obama Administration has agreed to help Australia by taking refugees, some of whom have been on Nauru for more than two years.
An announcement is expected within the next few days.
Cabinet Minister Christopher Pyne didn’t confirm the report, but did note there was plenty of time before Donald Trump’s inauguration to make an announcement.
Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese welcomed the news. “These are people who are refugees, who have been found to be refugees, who, if they are settled in a country like the United States, that will be a good thing,” he said.
Speculation of the refugee swap with the US was rife in September after Malcolm Turnbull announced Australia would take refugees from Central America as part of its annual intake.
The latest development comes after Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced on Saturday the government planned to ban refugees arriving by boat from ever settling in Australia.
On Thursday a bill to implement that ban passed through Parliament and will now head to the Senate.
In a scathing editorial on that decision, headed “Australia doubles down on cruel refugee policy”, the New York Times wrote: “The government of Australia has come under withering criticism for its harsh anywhere-but-here approach to refugees and other migrants who attempt to reach the country by boat. But instead of revisiting a cruel and costly policy — which involves sending everyone intercepted at sea to offshore prisons — Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has decided to double down.”
From New York, former Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd argued a 2013 deal he struck with Papua New Guinea to process refugees through Manus Island was only meant to run for a year.
“This July 2013 policy was conceived as a mechanism to break the gathering momentum of the people-smuggling industry,” he wrote.
The Coalition deliberately misrepresented it as a permanent measure, he added.
Rudd also criticised the government for a failed agreement with Cambodia – which has now cost in excess of $A40m to shift five or less refugees to the Southeast Asian nation – for refusing to accept New Zealand’s offer to resettle 150 refugees.
Cabinet minister Mathias Cormann said Rudd had no credibility on the issue of asylum seeker because Labor caused “chaos and dysfunction” on Australia’s borders.