In a deal struck with the US to resettle refugees currently held in processing centres on Nauru and Manus Island, the Federal Government is hoping it’s one step closer to clearing both facilities.
The deal would see those currently in the processing centres offered a new life in the US, although the exact number has not yet been confirmed. It will not apply to any new asylum seeker boat arrivals. Those on Nauru will be prioritised, with a team from the US Homeland Security arriving in Australia this week to begin the vetting process. For those who do not accept the offer to be resettled in the US, a 20-year-visa for Nauru or return to their country of origin are the alternatives.
With fears that news of the deal will encourage more people to try and make it to the shores of Australia, a stringent defence operation is now underway. “We recognise that people smugglers will seek to exploit this announcement,” Mr Turnbull said.
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said Nauru would remain as a processing centre under the Government’s border protection policy. “We still rely on regional processing, which is why Nauru will remain in its current status forever,” he said.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten welcomed the deal, “Labor would be hypocritical if we didn’t welcome this because this is the very thing we wanted with the Malaysia solution,” he said.
However, not everyone is satisfied that this is the best outcome for all those held in the processing centres, with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) saying that a solution must be found for all held, not just refugees. UNHCR’s external relations officer, Catherine Stubberfield said, “It’s important that they don’t remain in Nauru and Papua New Guinea, where they’ve stayed for far too long and indeed languished in limbo.
“There’s still a large number of vulnerable people who in fact have been immensely damaged by these arrangements and who equally will need a solution at some point.”
Women and children and family groups on Nauru will be given priority over men currently on Manus Island the Government has said.
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For those being resettled in the US, the Federal Government and the people of Australia, the shame of Manus Island and Nauru will live on for years to come.
For the last four years those who have fled their countries due to war, poverty or the need to provide a better life for their children, have been subjected to conditions that we here in Australia can’t comprehend. And let’s be clear, we’re not talking about people smugglers, or those who are illegally trying to get to Australia, these are people who have been subjected to horrors in their own country that simply would not happen here in Australia.
Rather than showing them compassion and opening our hearts and minds to the better lives we could help them have, they have instead been forced to live in tents without any indication of how long it would be before their fate was known. We have all heard the tales of horror, of beatings, rape and humiliation to which they have been subjected, yet still we are expected to take some pride in the fact we have signed a deal with the US to resettle these poor unfortunates. All we are doing is simply washing our hands of the problem.
And with President-Elect Donald Trump planning to deport 2 to 3 million undocumented migrants as soon as he takes office, we can hardly say with any certainty that these refugees are being sent to a country that will offer them any sort of stability. Such is the ill-feeling in the US towards migrants, be they legal or not, who knows what type of reception they will receive, or indeed how long they will be able to remain.
So before we congratulate the Government for solving one of its biggest problems, let’s not forget that it had a significant hand in contributing to the magnitude of the problem in the first place. If it had quickly and humanely processed those sent to the centres, then there would not have been the need for such a deal in the first instance. And no one does anything for nothing these days so we will just have to wait and see what the US asks for in return.
What do you think? Do you think this is a win for Australia? Do you believe the US is the best place for these refugees? What do you think the US will request in return? Will it take the form of Australia accepting Costa Rican migrants?