President Trump called it a “dumb deal” when Barack Obama crafted it with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, but eventually decided to honor it in recognition of our strong alliance with that nation. It was the agreement for us to take in and resettle more than a thousand refugees who had attempted to reach Australia illegally from majority Muslim nations but were apprehended and held in a couple of refugee camps on islands off their shore.
In exchange, the Aussies agreed to take a similar number of migrants from Central American nations off our hands. With the Australian camps on the islands of Nauru and Manus scheduled to close on Halloween, time is running out and they’re going to have to do something with the rest of them. And now the first fifty or so will be heading for their final destinations within the week. (Reuters)
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said on Wednesday the first group of about 50 men and woman held in two controversial detention centers for asylum-seekers on remote Pacific islands will be resettled in the United States within weeks.
Turnbull’s comments mark the first official timetable for when the United States would begin resettling up to 1,250 people held in Australian-run centers on Nauru and Papua New Guinea’s Manus island as part of a refugee swap deal struck by former U.S. President Barack Obama late last year.
Australia will begin resettling several dozen Central American refugees within weeks as part of a deal that U.S. President Donald Trump has described as “dumb” but has nevertheless said Washington would honor.
Turnbull is being particularly gracious about this, going out of his way to publicly thank President Trump during an interview on one of his nation’s main news networks. That’s not terribly surprising since he’s in a lot of political trouble at the moment due to Australia’s ongoing plebiscite on gay marriage, so he doesn’t need another foreign policy mess blowing up in his face right now.
The refugees we’re getting have allegedly been as thoroughly vetted as can be managed over the past year or more. Of course, precisely how much “thorough vetting” you can do on some of them remains an ongoing question. They come from a few nations including Bangladesh and Iran, along with some Rohingya Muslims who escaped from Myanmar before the current purge taking place there kicked into high gear this year. I suppose the Iranians have enough of a paperwork trail at home to check them out, but how do you really explore the background of the Rohingya Muslims? In their home country they weren’t even considered citizens or given any voting rights. The Myanmar government considers them stateless and the problem of Bangladesh, while chasing down many of them accused of being part of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, a Muslim terror group operating in the region.
Which ones are which? That’s the question I’m sure the vetting teams have been wrestling with and the new arrivals will probably receive considerable scrutiny after they are resettled here. But since we’re in the business of cutting deals these days, I’m wondering if Trump isn’t considering modifying this one. Australia has vast tracks of open land where I’m sure they could easily locate a fair number of people. Perhaps we could work out some sort of two for one plan where they take deportees from us when their own nations won’t take them back? It’s something to consider, anyway.