Canberra, Sep 20 The first 50 refugees to be resettled in the U.S. under a contentious agreement with Australia will be notified within days that they will be leaving the Pacific island camps where they have languished for years, the Australian prime minister said today.
Refugee Action Coalition spokesman Ian Rintoul, an Australia-based advocate, said refugees in the camps were experiencing anxiety and anticipation at news that decisions were pending.
"Processing of other individuals continues and further decisions by United States authorities are expected in due course".
Doubts over the arrangement surfaced after Trump took office and attacked it as a "dumb deal" in a heated phone call with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, before begrudgingly agreeing to honour it.
President Trump has promised an extreme vetting process.
More than 1,200 asylum seekers from Africa, Asia and the Middle East are being held in Nauru and Papua New Guinea's northern island of Manus, as part of Canberra's policy of intercepting people attempting to sail to Australia and seek asylum.
Australia instead pays Papua New Guinea and Nauru to house asylum seekers in camps that have been plagued by reports of abuse and draconian conditions.
Turnbull indicated there would be more to come, and said the refugees were subject to the United States' strict vetting procedures.
Sessions Visits a Sanctuary City, Tells It to Stop
Sessions' public reports on sanctuary cities and their policies in relation to crime rates have been misleading. The California Values Act, passed Saturday by state lawmakers, is expected to be signed by the governor.
The first group of refugees to be resettled in the U.S. will be told in coming days.
Turnbull added that this was the "first stage". "It's all subject to the United States' very thorough vetting, their extreme vetting".
The people on Nauru and Manus Island who will be heading to the USA will find out in the next few days whether they have passed the vetting stage.
Almost 800 men are being held on Manus, and 371 men, women and children are detained on Nauru, according to Australian immigration data as of July 31.
Refugees and asylum seekers have peacefully protested every day for more than six weeks.
Turnbull sad he did not know how many more refugees that the United States might take. Refugees have had the option to resettle in Cambodia, but few took up that offer.
A US State Department spokesperson told the ABC a "first group" of 54 refugees had been approved for resettlement and more would be accepted in coming months.
"In signing the U.S. deal our government was rightly conceding that it couldn't just abandon people on Nauru and Manus forever", said the centre's director of legal advocacy Daniel Webb. "Not one life can be abandoned in limbo".