U.S. officials meet asylum seekers at
Australian-run camp, possibly restarting 'dumb deal'
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[March 20, 2017]
By Colin Packham and Aaron Bunch
CANBERRA/PERTH (Reuters) - U.S. officials
began taking fingerprints of asylum seekers in an Australian-run camp on
the Pacific island of Nauru on Monday, signaling that vetting of
applicants for resettlement in what U.S. President Donald Trump called a
"dumb deal" has restarted.
Australia agreed with former U.S. President Barack Obama late last year
for the United States to resettle up to 1,250 asylum seekers held in
much criticized processing camps on Papua New Guinea and Nauru. In
return, Australia would resettle refugees from El Salvador, Guatemala
Trump labeled the agreement a "dumb deal" in a Tweet, but said he would
stand by it.
Interviews with more than half a dozen detainees on Nauru confirmed the
U.S. Homeland Security officials arrived on Saturday, with meetings with
detainees beginning on Monday.
Two asylum seekers, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of fears
of jeopardizing their applications to settle in the United States, told
Reuters by phone Homeland Security officials did not ask any specific
"It was not a normal interview, they just collected fingerprints and
took my height and weight," the Iranian refugee told Reuters.
Other refugees showed Reuters appointment slips to meet U.S. officials.
Similar biometric data collection would begin at the Australian-run
detention center in Papua New Guinea in early April, detainees were told
by immigration officials last week.
Australia maintains a strict policy of not allowing anyone who tries to
reach the country by boat to settle there, instead detaining them in the
camps on Nauru and PNG in conditions that have been harshly criticized
by rights groups.
Some asylum seekers have spent years in the camps, with numerous reports
of sexual abuse and self-harm among detainees, including children.
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One 36-year-old woman told Reuters by phone from Nauru she did not
want to be too hopeful about resettlement.
"For me, I really don't believe anything (about) when I get out from
this hell," she said. "I heard too many lies like this in this three
and half years."
A spokeswoman for Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton
declined to comment. The Department of Homeland Security did not
respond to a request for comment.
The U.S. security interviews with asylum seekers on Nauru were
canceled last month amid uncertainty about what constituted "extreme
vetting" Trump promised to apply to the 1,250 refugees it agreed to
Some asylum seekers said the latest developments gave them hope.
"I think the deal will happen, but the question we don't know is how
many people will be taken by the U.S.," Behrouz Boochani, an Iranian
refugee held on PNG's Manus Island for nearly four years, told
With mounting international pressure, officials at Manus Island
center are increasing pressure on asylum seekers to return to their
home countries voluntarily, including offering large sums of money.
(Editing by Nick Macfie)
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