The fate of 1,246 refugees held on remote island camps in the South Pacific is in the global spotlight as the U.S. and Australia spar over their future. The Obama administration agreed with Australia in November to resettle the refugees. That now appears in doubt after President Donald Trump publicly branded it a “dumb deal” -- embarrassing Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. The president later said he will “respect” the agreement, while continuing to question it and saying “we have to be treated fairly.”
Men, women and children who were detained by border-control authorities after paying people smugglers to ferry them to Australia without visas, often in rickety, unseaworthy boats. The vast majority come from Iran, followed by Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Iraq; others are classified as “stateless.” Many have been detained for years. As of October, 45 children remained at the camps. The governments of Nauru and Papua New Guinea, who host the camps for Australia, say about 80 percent of the people they have processed are genuine refugees.