YAREN, 30 NOVEMBER 2017 (THE GUARDIAN) — At least 70 – and possibly up to 90 – refugees held by Australia on Nauru have been accepted for resettlement in the United States, sources on the island say.
Staff from the US state department-funded Resettlement Support Centre, currently on Nauru, have told about 70 refugees – mainly single men from Pakistan and Afghanistan but also some single women – they can resettle in America.
More meetings are scheduled for coming days and up to 90 refugees are expected to be accepted in this round of resettlement offers.
If and when those refugees leave the island, they will bring the number resettled under the controversial US deal to about 140 from both of Australia’s offshore islands, Nauru and Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island.
But at least three refugee families and nine single refugees have also been told they have been rejected by the US and their futures remain in limbo. They have been told they have up to three months to lodge an appeal but this process is unclear.
The Nauru government has been adamant that no refugees will permanently resettle in that country. It is unclear where they will be able to resettle, despite being legally owed protection by Australia.
Some of the refugees accepted for resettlement had their medical assessments completed several months ago, so they have now expired. They will need to be redone before people can move to the US. But induction courses, to introduce people to living in America, will commence in coming days.
It is understood the next cohort of refugees will leave for the US in late January.
Resettlement Support Centre officers are also on the island to commence the interview process for those refugees who have previously expressed an interest in going to the US but who have not had an initial interview.
Ian Rintoul, from the Refugee Action Coalition, said the latest round of resettlement offers confirmed all of the existing concerns around the US deal.
“It’s fantastically slow and completely lacking in transparency.” he said. “All of the anxieties on Nauru are back now, people are asking, ‘Why this person and not that person? Why so few families?’
“But it’s also quite obvious that, at this rate, we are looking at a very, very long time for the people on Nauru to know exactly how many are going to be selected and the time to resettle them.”
Refugees on Nauru said they had mixed feelings about the latest announcement.
“We will get happy for the people who will get out of this hell,” one refugee told the Guardian. “But many people are still concerned for their own case … People think, ‘What will happen to us?’”
The US deal has been mired in controversy since it was announced in November 2016. So far, only 54 refugees have been resettled and faith in the deal is fading with its sclerotic progress.
On the offshore islands, there is scepticism the US deal will resettle more than a few dozen of the 2,000 refugees still held offshore.
But within the Australian government, there is a belief that the US will take close to the 1,250 refugees it posited and will do so by next October, when its annual humanitarian intake quota resets…. PACNEWS [/restrict]