What was this refugee deal about that got Donald Trump all excited and hyper-ventilating? The agreement was made with the Obama administration in November 2016 and allowed refugees, currently being held in Australian offshore detention centers, to apply to be resettled in the US.
However, the executive order Trump signed last Friday had banned nearly all refugee admissions to the US for four months — but with a loophole to allow refugees to be resettled per a “preexisting international agreement.”
The argument between the two leaders was over the 1250 refugees in Australian centers. These refugees are not all guaranteed entry into the USA as they still need to go through the mandated US screening process.
This is a ‘one-off’ refugee resettlement deal with Obama agreeing to take an unspecified number of refugees from Australia’s offshore detention centers on Manus Island and Nauru.
Both these Australian-run detention camps had received international criticism especially from the UN, human rights groups and other nations due to allegations of sexual and physical abuse of those detained, including rapes, beatings and even the murder of one asylum seeker by guards. The refugees living in these facilities were committing high rates self-harm and even suicides, large numbers had started to suffer from psychiatric illnesses, combined with harsh conditions and inadequate medical treatment it had led to several deaths.
Donald Trump has lashed out at Australia’s refugee deal with the US in an inflammatory tweet.
Do you believe it? The Obama Administration agreed to take thousands of illegal immigrants from Australia. Why? I will study this dumb deal!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 2, 2017
The American embassy in Canberra has been forced to reaffirm that President Donald Trump’s undertaking to honour the refugee deal stands, after new doubt arose following an explosive story in the Washington Post.
Statement from the US Embassy in Canberra. Trump Whitehouse will honour the refugee deal. Wow. pic.twitter.com/atJqPpPe6T
— James Massola (@jamesmassola) February 2, 2017
Malcolm Turnbull refused to be drawn on a Washington Post report that Trump “blasted” him over the refugee deal in their weekend conversation, which the president told him was his worst call of the day.
Turnbull’s silence was taken as an effective broad confirmation of the Washingon Post story.
“‘This is the worst deal ever’, Trump fumed as Turnbull attempted to confirm that the United States would honor its pledge to take in 1,250 refugees from an Australian detention center,” the Washington Post reported.
“Trump, who one day earlier had signed an executive order temporarily barring the admissions of refugees, complained that he was ‘going to get killed’ politically and accused Australia of seeking to export the ‘next Boston bombers’,” the story said.
“At one point Trump informed Turnbull that he had spoken with four other world leaders that day – including Russian President Vladimir Putin – and that, ‘This was the worst call by far’.”
The report said Trump had abruptly ended the call after 25 minutes when it had been expected to go for an hour.
It said Trump had told Turnbull it was his “intention” to honor the agreement. Turnbull told Trump that to honor it the US wouldn’t have to accept all the refugees, but only to allow each to go through the normal vetting procedures.
“At that, Trump vowed to subject each refugee to ‘extreme vetting’,” the Washington Post said, citing a senior US official who spoke to the paper.
One of the article’s two authors, Philip Rucker, said the sources for the story were “US officials who have been briefed on the specific details of the conversation”.
Peppered with questions at his news conference in Melbourne called to talk about energy, Turnbull repeatedly refused to be drawn. “I’m not going to comment on these reports of a conversation,” he said.
He did add that: “Australians know me very well. I always stand up for Australia in every forum.”
He repeated that he had received Trump’s assurance that the deal, negotiated with the Obama administration, would be honored.
A US embassy spokesperson later said: “President Trump’s decision to honor the refugee agreement has not changed and [White House] spokesman Spicer’s comments [confirming this] stand. This was just reconfirmed to the State Department from the [White House] and on to this embassy at 13:15 Canberra time.”
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said Turnbull should “talk straight to the Australian people” about what was going on. “We don’t want to find out our news from the Washington Post. We should hear it first from our prime minister.”