Trump to Honor Pacific Island Refugee Deal With Australia

  • Pledge made during phone call with Prime Minister Turnbull
  • Deal with Obama administration had appeared to be in jeopardy

Trump speaks on the phone with Turnbull.

Photographer: Pete Marovich/Pool via Bloomberg

U.S. President Donald Trump has vowed to uphold an agreement with Australia to resettle asylum seekers held in Pacific island camps, an Australian government official said Sunday.

Trump made the commitment during a 25-minute phone conversation with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, according to the official, who asked not to be identified as there has been no public announcement.

About 1,600 asylum seekers who tried to reach Australia by boat are being detained on Manus Island and Nauru, with many potentially eligible to be resettled in the U.S. under an agreement reached last year with the Obama administration.

The deal appeared in jeopardy when Trump on Friday signed an executive order indefinitely banning admission of people fleeing Syria, temporarily freezing the entry of other refugees and prohibiting entry by people from seven majority-Muslim nations for 90 days.

Turnbull told reporters on Saturday, before his phone hook-up with the Oval Office, he was “very confident” the agreement would be upheld. The prime minister has not spoken publicly since the call with Trump.

The White House said in an earlier statement that Trump and Turnbull “emphasized the enduring strength and closeness of the U.S.-Australia relationship that is critical for peace, stability, and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region and globally.” The White House didn’t immediately respond to a late-night request for comment on the refugee deal with Australia.

The two leaders committed to making the U.S.-Australia alliance even stronger, according to the Australian official. They discussed their shared objective to defeating Islamic State and tackling global instability, including in the Asia-Pacific region. They also acknowledged their common interest in preventing irregular and illegal migration, the official said.

Australia’s foreign ministry said the embassy in Washington was “engaging” with U.S. officials on what Trump’s executive order meant for Australian dual nationals from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade “has not received any requests for consular assistance from Australians unable to board transport to the United States,” it said in an e-mailed statement Sunday.

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