The deal to resettle refugees from Australia’s offshore detention islands to the US appears to be proceeding in the early days of the Trump administration, with US officials visiting Manus Island to speak to refugees.
A US official, accompanied by Australian immigration officers, visited the detention centre on Friday – just hours before Trump’s inauguration – and told refugees that interviews for potential resettlement would begin next month.
US officials have already visited Nauru.
Sources on Manus Island have told Guardian Australia the resettlement option would only be available for detainees who have been found to be refugees (under the refugees convention). Those who have had a negative assessment on their protection claim would not be eligible for resettlement.
The Resettlement Support Centre East Asia has been contracted by the US state department to oversee the interview process. Refugees are expected to be interviewed at least twice and the entire process is expected to take between six and 12 months.
Detainees on Nauru – where families, unaccompanied women and children, as well as single men, have been sent – were believed to be set for resettlement before those on Manus, which is for single men only. Both detention centres have been the subject of sustained criticism by the UN and other nations over systemic sexual and physical abuse of those detained, including rapes, beatings and the murder of one asylum seeker by guards; child sexual abuse; chronic rates of self-harm and suicide; dangerous levels of sustained mental illness, harsh conditions and inadequate medical treatment.
A Rohingyan refugee from Myanmar, Imran Mohammad Fazal Hoque, told Guardian Australia from Manus the men on the island were hopeful about the proposed resettlement deal but past disappointments tempered their expectations.