SYDNEY, 30 JANUARY 2017 (SMH) — Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has received Donald Trump’s personal assurance that a deal for the US to resettle refugees from Nauru and Manus Island will go ahead, despite the US President’s harsh immigration policies sending shockwaves around the world.
Fears the deal, struck last year with Barack Obama, might be torpedoed by Trump were allayed during a phone call between the Australian and US leaders on Sunday, Fairfax Media understands.
The assurance came as an executive order signed by Trump clamping down on refugees and broader immigration from some Muslim-majority nations caused large protests in the US. It also prompted concern from Australian MPs from both sides, especially over how the order might affect Australian dual nationals.
Turnbull’s office declined to comment on the 25-minute phone call with the US President. Fairfax Media has been told the President confirmed his administration would honour last year’s agreement, though it remains unclear how many of the roughly 2000 asylum-seekers held on Nauru and Manus Island will be resettled in the US.
Under the Obama deal, final details, including the number to be resettled, were not expected to be nailed down until the second half of this year, after US official’s scrutinised applications and carried out security checks.
But news that Trump won’t overturn his predecessor’s arrangement with Australia means the plight of many refugees who have languished on the Pacific islands for years may finally end.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten welcomed the news, saying: “I’m pleased if the Americans honour their side of the bargain.”
Trump’s executive order includes a four-month pause on all refugee arrivals, a three-month ban on entry by citizens from seven countries of terrorism concern – Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Sudan and Somalia – and an indefinite halt on all refugees from Syria.
It also prioritises refugees who are fleeing persecution as members of religious minorities in their home countries, most obviously Christians and other non-Muslims in the Middle East and South Asia.
Travellers with US visas and even residency permits were reportedly detained at American airports or prevented from boarding US-bound planes, but Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said her department had received no requests for help from “Australians unable to board transport to the United States”.
“The Australian embassy in Washington is engaging with US officials on the potential implications of the suspension for Australian travellers, including dual nationals,” she said…. PACNEWS [/restrict]