Pacific News Minute: U.S. Clears First Group of Detainees from Australia’s Offshore Detention Camps

Sep 20, 2017

Manus Island Regional Processing Center
Credit Wikimedia Commons

Limbo has finally ended for at least some of the refugees held in Australia’s offshore detention camps. The State Department announced that 54 have been cleared for relocation to the United States and could arrive as soon the end of this week. We have more from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute.

In a deal negotiated by the Obama Administration and reluctantly honored by President Trump, the U.S. will accept as many as 1,250 of the refugees who have languished in Australian run camps in Nauru and on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea. Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said this first group of 54 includes refugees from both camps. Radio New Zealand reported that a notice posted in the detention center on Manus assured the others that further settlement decisions would be forthcoming.

The start of resettlement marks the beginning of the end of a nightmare; men women and children who attempted to reach Australia by sea have been held, some for more than four years, in circumstances that U.N. agencies describe as inhumane.

But even if the U.S. accepts the full allotment, hundreds will be left out.

Australia’s Human Rights Law Center estimates that about five hundred people who’ve qualified as refugees will remain, some have family in Australia and don’t want to go to the U.S. There’s no word on their fate, except that Australia is not an option. From the beginning of this policy, Canberra has insisted that none of the boat people would ever be resettled in Australia - the official reason is to deter others from making the risky voyage.

There are also about 200 men on Manus whose applications for refugee status were rejected. They face the possibility of being returned to their home countries by force.