World View: Trump Will Honor Australia Refugee Deal, Despite Calling It ‘Worst Deal Ever’

The Associated Press
The Associated Press

This morning’s key headlines from

  • Trump will honor Australia refugee deal, despite calling it ‘worst deal ever’
  • Australian politics in turmoil over refugee deal

Trump will honor Australia refugee deal, despite calling it ‘worst deal ever’

Australia's refugee detention center on the Pacific island of Nauru
Australia’s refugee detention center on the Pacific island of Nauru

Australian officials, led by Australia’s prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, have said that the plan to resettle up the 1,250 refugees from Australia in the United States had been “confirmed several times over” by Donald Trump administration officials.

The deal was made in November by President Barack Obama in the waning days of his administration. The US will take 1,250 refugees that Australia has sent to two “detention centers” on Pacific islands, one on Papua New Guinea’s (PNG’s) Manus Island, and one on the island nation of Nauru, under agreements reached with both countries. The reason that they had been sent to detention centers is not because they were known to have committed crimes, but because they had arrived by boats run by human traffickers. Australia has refused to let them resettle on Australian soil in order to discourage human trafficking, and the policy has actually been very successful in that regard.

Nonetheless, the detention centers are considered to be violations of international law for several reasons, including the fact that they’re described as filthy and rat-infested, with numerous stories of beatings, torture, and sexual abuse.

Although the deal was announced in November, it has been mostly ignored until last week when president Donald Trump held a phone conversation with Australia’s president Malcolm Turnbull. The mainstream media described the phone call as contention, and claimed that Trump had hung up on Turnbull, something that both Trump and Turnbull have derided as “fake news.”

Trump characterized the refugee deal as “the worst deal ever,” and there was speculation that Trump would cancel the deal. However, Trump took the position that he was bound by the international agreements made by the previous administration, and he has confirmed that the US will take in up to 1,250 of these refugees, after subjecting each of them to “extreme vetting.” Australian Broadcasting and Business Insider and CNBC

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Australian politics in turmoil over refugee deal

Australian politics were already pretty toxic over the use of the Pacific island refugee detention centers, but the news about the Trump-Turnbull phone call and the new attention given to the US-Australia refugee deal has caused additional turmoil:

  • People on the left generally want all the refugees in the Pacific island detention centers to be brought to Australian soil and settled there. They point out that Australia is the sixth-largest country in the world geographically, with the seventh-lowest population density, and so they could easily resettle many refugees.
  • People on the right point out that the real evil is the human traffickers who charge thousands of dollars per refugee to transport them by boat, hoping to reach Australian soil. They say that the detention centers have drastically reduced the number of refugees attempting the boat trip, and so have also drastically reduced the amount of human trafficking.
  • Turnbull is being accused of giving Trump a quid pro quo in return for going ahead with the refugee deal. In particular, the accusation is that Turnbull was forced to agree to military participation in a future war when Trump requests it. Turnbull has vigorously denied this accusation.
  • Some people are accusing Australia’s government of humanitarian cruelty for having a policy of refusing to bring refugees from the detention centers to Australia in the case of a medical emergency, for fear that once on Australian soil, they’ll never leave.

With regard to the last point, the Trump-Turnbull phone call was not the only event in the last week to reignite the refugee debate.

A 37-year-old woman refugee known only as “Dee” had requested in December to be flown from the Nauru detention center to Australia to care for a high-risk pregnancy. Australia refused, infuriating activists, but finally was forced on Friday to permit her to come to a hospital in Brisbane.

Ironically, citizens of Nauru may be approved for transfer to Australian hospitals, but since Dee was a refugee, her transfer was not approved (until Friday). Canberra Times and Special Broadcasting Service (Australia) and Stuff (New Zealand) and BBC and Red Flag

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KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Australia, Malcolm Turnbull, Papua New Guinea, PNG, Manus Island, Nauru
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