Exclusive: Australia-U.S. refugee swap again in doubt as officials exit Nauru

SYDNEY/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. officials interviewing refugees held in an Australian-run offshore detention heart left the power abruptly, three detainees informed Reuters on Saturday, throwing further doubt over a plan to resettle a few of the detainees in The United States.

U.S. officials halted screening interviews and departed the Pacific island of Nauru on Friday, two weeks short of their scheduled timetable and a day after Washington stated the U.S. had reached its annual refugee consumption cap.

“U.S. (officers) have been scheduled to be on Nauru unless July 26 but they left on Friday,” one refugee advised Reuters, soliciting for anonymity as he didn’t need to jeopardize his software for U.S. resettlement.

In the U.S., a senior member of the union that represents refugee officers at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services And Products (USCIS), a Department of Native Land Security agency, told Reuters his own travel to Nauru Was no longer going ahead as scheduled.

Jason Marks, chief steward of the American Federation of presidency Staff Native 1924, instructed Reuters his go back and forth has now been pushed back and it Used To Be unclear whether it’s going to actually occur.

The USCIS mentioned on Saturday that this system would continue however offered no small print.

“We Do Not discuss the precise dates of USCIS’ circuit rides to adjudicate refugees’ functions. However, we’re planning return trips,” the company said in a statement. 

“It Is Not unusual for the dates of tentatively-planned refugee circuit trip journeys global to alter because of a wide variety of things.”

The Australian Immigration Department declined to comment on the whereabouts of the U.S. officials or the future of a refugee swap agreement between Australia and the U.S. that President Donald Trump past this yr branded a “dumb deal”.

An indefinite postponement of the deal would have significant repercussions for Australia’s pledge to close a 2d detention middle on Papua New Guinea’s Manus island on Oct 31. Simplest 70 refugees, lower than 10 percent of the entire detainees held within the camp, have completed U.S. processing.

FILE Picture: Protesters from the Refugee Motion Coalition hang placards all over an illustration outdoor the workplaces of the Australian Government Department of Immigration and Border Protection in Sydney, Australia, April 29, 2016.David Gray/File Photograph

“The U.S. deal appears an increasing number of doubtful,” Ian Rintoul from the Refugee Motion Coalition mentioned. “The U.S. deal Used To Be by no means the answer the Australian Govt pretended it to be.”

Former U.S. President Barack Obama agreed a take care of Australia late remaining year to offer refuge to as much as 1,250 asylum seekers, a deal the Trump administration said it could Simplest honor to handle a strong relationship with Australia after which Simplest given that refugees glad strict exams.

In change, Australia has pledged to take Crucial American refugees from a center in Costa Rica, the place the united states has taken in a larger number of folks in recent years.

The swap is designed, partially, to help Australia close each Manus and Nauru, which are dear to run and had been extensively criticized by way of the United International Locations and others over therapy of detainees.

The U.S. Govt validated on Thursday that its refugee consumption cap of fifty,000 folks had been reached with the new intake 12 months not because of commence unless Oct. 1.

Exemptions will be made for many who have a “credible claim to a bona fide relationship with an individual or entity in the us”, following a choice from the U.S. Supreme Court final month reviving parts of Trump’s trip ban while it considers the legality of the order.

Given the dangerous boat ride the refugees in Manus and Nauru undertook to achieve Australia, it’s unlikely many of them have robust family ties to the U.S., specialists said. The Vast Majority Of the detainees interviewed on both Manus and Nauru by means of U.S. officials in April are from Sudan, Somalia and Afghanistan.

Australia’s hardline immigration policy requires asylum seekers intercepted at sea looking to reach Australia to be sent for processing to camps at Manus and on the South Pacific island of Nauru. They Are told they’re going to never be settled in Australia.

Trump’s resistance to the refugee deal had strained relations with a key Asia Pacific ally, triggering a fractious telephone name with Australian High Minister Malcolm Turnbull past this 12 months.

Trump’s concession and a sequence of excessive-stage visits with the aid of U.S. dignities has on account that assist mend connections between the two international locations.

Australia has already offered detainees as much as $25,000 to voluntarily return to their home international locations, a proposal few have taken up.

Reporting through Colin Packham in Sydney and Yeganeh Torbati in Washington; extra reporting by means of David Morgan in Washington; Writing via Jane Wardell; Editing by means of Bill Tarrant and Grant McCool

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