The saga of an Australia-U.S. refugee deal which was originally penned by President Obama continues to unfold as reports of DHS interviewers unexpectedly left the Australian offshore detention center of Nauru on July 14, two weeks ahead of their scheduled departure, came in, sparking concerns that the U.S. was pulling out of the deal. But this is not the case, said U.S. and Australian officials.
According to a statement from US Citizenship and Immigration Services, “We do not discuss the exact dates of USCIS’ circuit rides to adjudicate refugees’ applications. However, we are planning return trips. It is not uncommon for the dates of tentatively-planned refugee circuit ride trips worldwide to change due to a wide variety of factors.”
The Center for Immigration Studies reported that the Australian immigration department “declined to comment on the whereabouts of the US officials or the future of a refugee-swap agreement between Australia and the US that Donald Trump earlier this year branded a ‘dumb deal’.”
Australia has promised to close a second detention center on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island by the end of October. However, less than 10% of the total detainees held in the camp have completed US processing, and it’s nearly August.
The news of USCIS workers premature departure comes on the heels of the U.S. government announcement on July 13 that the 50,000 refugee-cap for FY 2017 had been reached.
The Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop, reassured the public that the refugee deal is still in place. “The United States is upholding the agreement,” she said, noting, “We have been given assurances by President Trump and Vice-President Pence and others, that the agreement will be adhered to. The United States, like Australia, has a quota each year for the refugee intake. I understand that the quota has been fulfilled for this year. It kicks over again on October 1. But I have no doubt that the agreement is progressing.”
The Trump administration’s 90-day “travel ban” is also set to end around the beginning of October, which is significant to the Australian refugees, because most of them come from countries covered by the ban, including Iran, Sudan, Somalia and Afghanistan.
Officials remain optimistic that there is still enough time for the approximately 1,000 refugees detained on Nauru and on Manus Island to be resettled in the U.S. by the end of October.
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