Government US Resettlement Agreement on Refugees Announced
Sunday, 13th November 2016 at 11:57 am
The federal government has reached a deal with the United States to resettle refugees from Nauru and Manus Island in what the prime minister has described as a “one-off only agreement”.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said on Sunday the agreement followed months of “very careful planning” with the outgoing Obama administration.
“I can now confirm that the government has reached a further third country resettlement arrangement for refugees presently in the regional processing centres. The agreement is with the United States,” Turnbull said.
“It is a one-off agreement. It will not be repeated. It is only available to those currently in the regional processing centres. It will not be available to any persons who seek to reach Australia in the future.
“Our priority is the resettlement of women, children and families. This will be an orderly process. It will take time. It will not be rushed. It will be administered with the UN High Commission on Refugees and we’ll continue to engage with the UNHCR on its implementation.”
Turnbull said Australia’s border protection policy had not changed.
“People smuggling boats that attempt to reach Australia will be intercepted and turned back. It is resolute. It is unequivocal. Those who seek to come to Australia with people smugglers will not be admitted to Australia under any circumstances,” he said.
“We need to send, now more than ever, the clearest and most unequivocal message to people smugglers and their would-be passengers that, if they seek to come to Australia unlawfully, they will not succeed.”
The Human Rights Law Centre said the announcement of a third country settlement deal revealed the Turnbull government had finally conceded that the Manus and Nauru detention arrangements were unsustainable.
Human Rights Law Centre director of legal advocacy Daniel Webb said that such a concession would be a step in the right direction but that serious questions remained about who the deal will apply to and what will happen to the innocent people left behind.
“After three years of fear, limbo and harm, it looks like the government is finally acknowledging that Nauru and Manus are dead ends. That concession is important and long overdue,” Webb said.
Human Rights Law Centre said that as of 31 October 2016 there were 941 people on Nauru who had been accepted as refugees, and 675 on Manus Island.
“This leaves around 500 people whose refugee status hasn’t yet been confirmed, plus another 320 people who are already here in Australia after being brought back from offshore detention for medical treatment,” Webb said.
“Every single man, woman and child who has suffered at our government’s hand on Nauru or Manus needs a humane resolution. This dark chapter does not close until each and every person who has been detained on Nauru or Manus is rebuilding their lives in safety. Today’s announcement may be a starting point, but there is an awfully long way to go.”
The prime minister would not confirm how many people would be part of the resettlement agreement with the US.
“The arrangements with the United States will offer the opportunity for refugees, both on Nauru and Manus, to be resettled but I should stress that the priority is very much on the most vulnerable which are family units and, of course, they are located on Nauru,” Turnbull said.
The federal opposition has welcomed the announcement of the resettlement agreement.
“Labor would be hypocritical if we didn’t welcome this because this is the very thing we wanted with the Malaysia Solution some years ago,” Opposition leader Bill Shorten said.
“It has taken the current government three plus years to negotiate this one-off deal but we are pleased if it means an end to indefinite detention, especially for genuine refugees and they get the opportunity to be regionally resettled because, after all, Labor and Liberal are on a unity ticket to defeat the people smugglers and we will work with the government as they talk to us and subsequently brief us on the detail.”