Sydney, Jan 23 (IANS) The second group of refugees held in the Australian-run detention centre in Papua New Guinea (PNG) on Tuesday left for resettlement in the US under a controversial bilateral deal.
Fifty eight refugees left PNG’s Manus Island for the US East Coast, from where they will be resettled individually and in groups across the country, the Guardian reported.
They followed 54 refugees who migrated last September under an agreement between Canberra and Washington for the US to take up to 1,250 people.
Another group of 130 refugees on the independent Pacific state of Nauru has been accepted for resettlement and is expected to leave the island in the next days or weeks, the report said.
The controversial “US deal” — decried as “dumb” but upheld by US President Donald Trump — was brokered by his predecessor Barack Obama and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in September 2016.
In exchange for the US considering to resettle 1,250 refugees from Australia’s offshore camps, Australia agreed to take refugees from US-run refugee camps in Costa Rica.
Those refugees are from the violence-plagued northern triangle countries of central America: El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
So far, about 30 people have been resettled in Australia.
The refugees released on Tuesday included no one from Sudan, Iran or Somalia, as these three countries are on Trump’s list of eight Muslim-majority nations whose citizens are banned from entering the US.
Natasha Blucher from the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre said 2,000 people, including 150 children, remained in offshore detention with no prospect of freedom.
“The US deal cannot be the only solution here. It is moving too slowly and people’s lives are being destroyed for every moment they are stuck in this crushing system,” she said.