Foreign policy, Trump style: Australia

Asylum seekers' interviews put on hold by officials

A camp processing immigrants run by Australia on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea.
A camp processing immigrants run by Australia on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea.PHOTO: NYTIMES

SYDNEY • US immigration officials have postponed interviews with asylum seekers in an Australian camp on the Pacific island of Nauru since President Donald Trump's executive order on immigration.

This suggests Washington is already blocking progress on a controversial refugee resettlement deal.

Asylum seekers on Nauru who are applying to settle in the US under a refugee swop deal said that planned second-round interview dates with visiting US officials had been postponed indefinitely.

The deal had been agreed in the final months of Mr Barack Obama's presidency late last year. Under the deal, the US would take up to 1,250 asylum seekers. In return, Australia would take refugees from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

More than a dozen asylum seekers on both Nauru and Manus Island in Papua New Guinea - the site of another Australian offshore camp - said they were afraid for their future since Mr Trump said that "extreme vetting" would be used, and after his testy phone call with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Mr Imran Mohammad, 22, a stateless man from the Rohingya ethnic minority in Myanmar, said from Manus Island: "We don't know what to believe and the uncertainty is getting worse and worse. It is killing us inside every day."

There are around 1,200 refugees, mostly single men, being held at Australian processing camps on Manus Island and Nauru in conditions that have been harshly criticised by the United Nations and human rights agencies.

Australia, which maintains a strict policy of not allowing anyone who tries to reach the country by boat to settle here, has never detailed the nationalities of the detainees, but refugee advocates say most are from Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Sudan.

REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 04, 2017, with the headline 'Asylum seekers' interviews put on hold by officials'. Print Edition | Subscribe