During former President Barack Hussein Obama’s terms in the White House, he agreed to allow 1,250 refugees that had been indefinitely held at detention centers in Australia to be brought to the United States. President Donald J. Trump pledged to honor the agreement, and the transfer began on Sunday.
According to reports, President Trump was not a fan of the deal, calling it “the worst deal ever” during a phone conversation with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. That conversation, which occurred in January, and represented the first time the two had officially spoken, led to an eventual agreement to accept the refugees by the U.S. president.
On Sunday, the first of several dozen Central American refugees to be transferred to America as a result of that agreement began their journey. The Refugee Action Coalition told Reuters that 22 male migrants had been transferred to Port Mores, where they will await a Wednesday flight to the U.S.
“They’re happy they’re going, and they never want to hear about Australia again,” refugee advocate Ian Rintoul told Reuters.
In a statement last Wednesday, Turnbull confirmed the transfer, saying, “There will be about 25 from both Manus and Nauru [that] will be going to the United States, and I just want to thank again President Trump for continuing with that arrangement.” (See video below.)
Manus and Nauru, the island centers the migrants will be transferred from, have received criticism by the United Nations. According to some reports, inmates are abusive to each other, and the guards largely ignore even brutal activities, including rape and torturous assault.
“I’ve never seen human beings so destitute, so helpless and so hopeless,” Rod St. George, a former guard, reportedly told The Independent. “In Australia, the facility couldn’t even serve as a dog kennel. The owners would be jailed.”
Turnbull said the migrants would go through a vetting process, and the U.S. will ultimately decide which individuals it lets in.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security began “extreme vetting” interviews at Australia’s offshore detention centers in May.
President Trump tweeted earlier this year that he would honor the “dumb deal” the Obama administration agreed to, also saying he would study it.
During a press conference in April, Vice President Mike Pence said the U.S. would move forward with the deal under one condition: Refugees must undergo extreme vetting measures.
“Let me make it clear, the United States intends to honor the agreement, subject to the results of the vetting processes that now apply to all refugees considered for admission to the United States of America,” Pence said at the time.
Security interviews reportedly included “in-depth questions” about family members and whether they had ties to ISIS, as well as a pledge to God to speak the truth.
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) September 20, 2017
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