US-Australia refugee swap in doubt due to Trump immigration rules: report

United States officials who were conducting interviews with refugees being held in Australia unexpectedly left the facility on Friday, adding to doubt that the U.S. will follow through on an agreement to resettle those detainees.

According to an exclusive Reuters report, officials stopped the screening interviews on the Pacific island of Nauru Friday, two weeks earlier than scheduled and a day after it was reported that the U.S. had reached its annual refugee intake cap.

 

"U.S. (officials) were scheduled to be on Nauru until July 26 but they left on Friday," one refugee told Reuters.

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The Australian Immigration Department declined to comment to Reuters on the whereabouts of the officials or the future of a refugee agreement.

The U.S. said in April that it would honor the Obama-era deal with Australia to take in as many as 1,250 refugees, even though President Trump previously called it a “dumb” deal.

 

Trump ultimately agreed to the resettlement on the condition that all of the refugees would undergo thorough background vetting. Australia, in exchange, has agreed to settle Central American refugees from a center in Costa Rica.

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly visited the refugees last month, currently being held on Papua New Guinea's Manus Island. During the trip, 70 men who had already undergone "extreme vetting" were given medical screenings.