The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has begun “extreme vetting” interviews at Australia’s offshore detention centers after Trump agreed to honor a refugee deal initiated by his predecessor, according to multiple reports.
President Trump tweeted earlier this year it was a “dumb deal” that the Obama administration had agreed to resettle the 1,250 asylum seekers, most of whom come from Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan.
“Do you believe it? The Obama Administration agreed to take thousands of illegal immigrants from Australia. Why? I will study this dumb deal!” Trump wrote on Twitter in February.
Do you believe it? The Obama Administration agreed to take thousands of illegal immigrants from Australia. Why? I will study this dumb deal!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 2, 2017
Trump later lambasted Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull over the refugee resettlement deal, during a phone meeting with him shortly after being inaugurated, reports The Hill.
Vice President Pence said during a press conference last month that 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.
Reuters reports that the first round of security interviews wrapped up last week at Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island detention center, which included ” in-depth questions” about family members and if they had ties to ISIS, as well as a pledge to God to speak the truth.
“They asked about why I fled my home, why I sought asylum in Australia,” one refugee told reporters.
The security interviews took about six hours and are the last stage of U.S. consideration of applicants.
Manus Island is one of two Australian-operated detention centers, which hold nearly 1,300 people who were intercepted trying to reach Australia by boat.
The relocation of asylum seekers to the United States is designed to help Papua New Guinea and Australia proceed with the planned closure of the Manus detention center on Oct. 31.
Those not offered resettlement in the United States will be offered the chance to settle in Papua New Guinea or return home.
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