More to the refugee deal than meets the eye Last week’s news that the Turnbull government has struck a deal to resettle in the USA up to 1800 refugees held on Nauru and Manus Island is superficially good news in some respects, though of course it cannot trump the fact that morally and ethically they should have been granted asylum here. My apologies for using the ‘trump’ word, but it has a bearing on my column this week. More on that below. The agreement reportedly will involve a people swap from US-overseen refugee camps in Costa Rica, which were established to deter asylum seekers and illegal migrants from trying to enter the US through unofficial channels. In effect Australia would be swapping South American land people for Middle Eastern and Asian boat people, with little change in the total refugee intake for both countries. How ironic it then that President Elect Trump holds in his hands the fate of many Central American migrants and Muslim refugees. Given his harsh rhetoric against both, the US-Australia deal must be on shaky ground. It would have been far, far better for such resettlement deals to be carried out under the auspices of the United Nations. Resettlement is as important to a deterrent refugee policy as humane conditions in offshore centres. The most important detail will be how Mr Trump reacts when he enters the White House in January. There though many more unanswered questions about this ‘deal’ that makes is less than the good news story it superficially appears to be. For example, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection has confirmed that the US is not obliged to accept a particular number of refugees, or indeed any, under the terms of its “deal” with the Australian government. “We learned today that the agreement provides no certainty whatsoever for the men, women and children that Australia has detained on Manus Island and Nauru,” Greens Immigration spokesperson Senator Nick McKim said. Like many of us, the Greens also have serious concerns about the Trump Administration failing to honour this deal and leaving people stranded, particularly given the Department’s evidence today that processing applications will take many months in some cases. Much has been made that the deal will act as a deterrent to people smugglers, but it is also arguable that a back door to the USA could be an added incentive to try for Australia with hopes of a home in another fine place. Malcolm Turnbull says “once only” but he is of the professional expediency class who live in our own fantasy land beside Lake Burley Griffin. Could it be that our bid for a position on the UN Human Rights Council in 2018 might now be free from the inconvenient taint of refugees still incarcerated in offshore detention? There’s also the nagging suspicion that the imminent transfer of power in the US, to a leader outspokenly antagonistic towards immigration of any kind, has given the plans of the Turnbull government here and Democrats in the USA a sense of urgency? Other than the saving of face for our political leaders, how has can this be more practical than finding them a place in our country? They have been proved to be real refugees. Why are we so proudly and stubbornly merciless in this aspect of Australia’s refugee policies

by ray goodlass

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