Australia’s Bishop Says U.S. Continues to Process Nauru Refugees

  • Foreign Minister expects agreement with U.S. will be honored
  • Bishop denies report interviews with asylum seekers suspended

Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop says U.S. officials are continuing to interview asylum seekers on the Pacific island of Nauru and she expects a deal with the U.S to resettle the refugees will be honored.

Reuters earlier reported the interviews had been suspended due to uncertainty about the status of the deal and precisely what the new Trump administration’s requirement of “extreme vetting” would mean in practice.

Bishop told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that vetting is still taking place, adding “we remain in contact with the Trump administration and our embassy in Washington is also working with U.S. officials and we expect that vetting process would be as tough as Australia’s vetting process in terms of health and security checks.”

Under the deal agreed with the Obama administration, the U.S. will take more than 1,000 asylum seekers held by Australia off-shore in return for Australia accepting refugees from Central America. 

This had been thrown into doubt following the election of President Donald Trump, who publicly branded the arrangement a “dumb deal.” The Washington Post reported Trump berated Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in a Jan. 28 phone call when discussing the deal. The president told Turnbull he had spoken to four other global leaders that day, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, and “this was the worst call by far,” the paper reported, citing unidentified U.S. officials.

Subsequently, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said the U.S. intended to “honor these commitments in some way,” although he cautioned that the refugees, mainly from nations like Iran and Iraq, would be subject to “a very, very extreme vetting process.”

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