SYDNEY, 26 JANUARY 2017 (SMH/REUTERS) —- Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s vaunted US “solution”, aimed at resettling hundreds of refugees from Manus Island and Nauru, risks collapse as the freshly minted US President Donald Trump eyes selective bans on immigration.
The yet-to-be-delivered agreement was nutted out in secret talks with Washington in the dying months of the Obama administration. But now, just a day after scotching the contentious 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact, Trump is on the cusp of delivering on another of his pre-election commitments – a promise to stop migration from several countries associated with Islamic fundamentalism.
Also being contemplated is a temporary ban on all refugees entering the US, regardless of origin.
According to sources, President Trump will, within the next 24 hours, sign an executive order banning US entry to any refugees from Syria as well as those from Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Libya, Yemen and Sudan.
Other countries could yet be added to that list.
That could effectively end the US/Australia resettlement deal or limit it to a much smaller number, meaning that most refugees held in the two centres of Manus Island in Papua New Guinea and Nauru, would continue to languish indefinitely.
Iranians make up the bulk of the refugee population held in the two detention facilities on Australia’s behalf, with significant representation from other Islamic countries also, including Pakistan, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
On Nauru, there are also many refugees from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Pakistan.
However, the federal government remains quietly confident that its special deal can survive the change of administration in Washington, thus allowing all of the refugee transfers to proceed.
There has been little movement in the populations of refugees at the two centres since 2014 when the Department of Border Protection advised Parliament that there were more than 500 Iranian asylum seekers or refugees contained at the Manus Island centre, and more than 120 from Afghanistan. There are also more than 100 men in Manus Island originating from Iraq, and over 150 Iranians on Nauru.
US immigration officials were present at Manus Island last week and spoke to hopeful refugees, indicating that the process of evaluation for suitability remained on track.
Notices posted at the centres have advised detainees that the formal assessments by US immigration officials were to commence in February for a process that could take between 6 to 12 months to complete.
Trump is expected to sign the executive order banning immigration on a country-by-country basis at the Department of Homeland Security after he swears in his new Secretary for Homeland Security, Marine General John Kelly.
Canberra is keeping a weather eye on developments in the Trump White House, but outwardly, offered only a dead bat to the suggestion that the deal is in peril.
“The government has entered into a unique arrangement with the United States, which reflects the depth of our relationship on many fronts,” said Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton.
“We look forward to working with President Trump, his administration, and in particular Secretary of Homeland Security General John Kelly, on this issue and many others of shared interest in the years ahead. We will continue to work with our friends in the United States on the arrangement but will not provide a running commentary through the media…. PACNEWS [/restrict]