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Australia to send asylum seekers to the U.S. in one-off deal

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Thousands of Melbournians rallied on the steps of the state library in co-ordinated, Australia-wide rallies, protesting the High Courts decision regarding the 267 refugees facing deportation on February 8, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia.
Image: Getty Images

Although its president-elect has strongly denounced refugees and Muslims, Australia will send asylum seekers to the U.S as part of a one-off resettlement deal.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced that asylum seekers interned in Australia’s regional processing centres would be eligible for the new program, with women, children and families to be prioritised.

The two centres on Nauru and Manus Island in Papua New Guinea are part of a system set up in 2001 to send anyone who arrived by boat seeking asylum offshore while their refugee claim was assessed. The program was intended to deter further “irregular” arrivals.

The announcement comes on the heels of a controversial new law proposed by the government in late October to ban any asylum seeker who arrived by boat from ever stepping foot in Australia, even as a tourist.

The resettlement deal is available only to those currently offshore, and refugees will still need to pass U.S. health and security checks.

“Australia’s border protection policy has not changed,” Turnbull told a press conference. “It is resolute. It is unequivocal. Those who seek to come to Australia with people smugglers will not be admitted to Australia under any circumstances.”

Removing asylum seekers from offshore detention, a system Amnesty has condemned as amounting to torture, is a priority and the only humane option.

However any asylum seeker sent to the U.S. will enter a country going through significant convulsions on the question of immigration.

The soon-to-be president of the U.S., Donald Trump, called for “a total and complete” ban on Muslim immigration during his election campaign.

“We have a very long history of cooperation with the United States.”

When questioned about the prospect of sending Muslim refugees to a country led by someone who has indulged in vehement anti-refugee rhetoric, Turnbull said the government dealt with one administration at a time.

“We have a very long history of cooperation with the United States in which we have been able to, as we are here, we have been able to support our mutual and respective humanitarian objectives,” he said.

Turnbull would not disclose if he raised the issue with Trump during his congratulatory phone call, nor discuss whether he expected the incoming president to honour the deal.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten also welcomed the arrangement, but did not comment directly on whether he believed Trump would comply.

“I guess it would have been better to conclude this before the United States election,” he said.

Human rights lawyer David Mann cautiously welcomed the news. “Any plan that is to resettle refugees to safety so that they can rebuild their lives after the suffering that they’ve gone through on Nauru and Manus must be welcomed,” he told the ABC.

However the deal is still light on detail, he pointed out, questioning whether families who had been split between mainland Australia and offshore detention would be reunited in the U.S.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2016/11/12/australia-sends-refugees-united-states/

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