World

Australia to take in refugees from Central America

SYDNEY: Australia will accept several dozen Central American refugees within the next few months, two sources told Reuters, the first transfers under a controversial refugee swap arrangement agreed with the United States.

Canberra pledged to take an unspecified number of Central American refugees under a deal struck with former US president Barack Obama last year.

In exchange, Washington said it would accept up to 1,250 asylum seekers held in Australian immigration centres in the Pacific Island nations of Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Nauru that Australia wants to close.

A group of about 30 refugees from El Salvador being held in Costa Rica will move to Australia in the next couple of months, the two sources said, with a second group to follow afterwards.

The transfer of the Salvadoran refugees to Australia will focus attention on US steps to uphold its end of the agreement, which US President Donald Trump had called a "dumb deal".

None of the refugees on PNG's Manus Island or Nauru - mostly men from the Middle East and South Asia - have been approved to move to the US yet.

There are about 200 refugees in Costa Rica as part of a programme set up by Mr Obama last year for people deemed too vulnerable to remain in their homelands.

Once vetted for criminal associations, they are eligible for resettlement in the US. Some can be transferred to other countries as part of a UN scheme.- REUTERS

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