World

Australia-US refugee deal in doubt again

SYDNEY United States officials interviewing refugees held in an Australian-run offshore detention centre left the facility abruptly, three detainees told Reuters, casting further doubt over a plan to resettle many of the detainees in the US.

US officials halted screening interviews and departed the Pacific island of Nauru last Friday, two weeks short of their scheduled timetable and a day after Washington said the US had reached its annual refugee intake cap of 50,000.

In the US, a senior member of the union that represents refugee officers at the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), a Department of Homeland Security agency, told Reuters his trip to Nauru was not going forward as scheduled.

Mr Jason Marks, chief steward of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 1924, told Reuters his trip has been pushed back, and it was unclear if it will actually happen.

NO DETAILS

The USCIS said on Saturday that the programme would continue but offered no details.

"We do not discuss the exact dates of USCIS' circuit rides to adjudicate refugees' applications. However, we are planning return trips," the agency said in a statement.

"It is not uncommon for the dates of tentatively planned refugee circuit ride trips worldwide to change due to a wide variety of factors."

US President Donald Trump earlier this year branded the refugee swop agreement between the US and Australia a "dumb deal".

Only 70 refugees, less than 10 per cent of the total detainees held in the camp, have completed US processing.

Former US president Barack Obama agreed to a deal with Australia late last year to offer refuge to up to 1,250 asylum seekers, a deal the Trump administration said it would honour only to maintain a strong relationship with Australia and then only on condition that refugees satisfied strict checks. - REUTERS

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