Why are the U.S and Australia pursuing a deal on refugee swap?


Australia and President Obama’s administration are nearing a deal on extra-territorial refugee centers. There’s been increasing speculation about a deal being forged since September this year when the Aussie Prime Minister said that his country would resettle migrants from the U.S in exchange for the U.S accommodating refugees stationed on the Pacific Islands in Australia.

Australia will reportedly resettle U.S migrants stationed at detention facilities in Costa Rica.

Today, Australia is in the custody of over 1800 refugees who are seeking asylum in its territory. These are individuals who have fled conflict in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Ira, Iraq and Sri Lanka. There has been a lot of controversy about how the refugees stationed on these islands have been treated by authorities. To start with, Australia has not granted them asylum, as a result of its stiff border policy that prevents asylum seekers from settling in the country. Australian leaders have engaged in negotiations with various nations in an attempt to move the refugees.

The deal with the United States will make it possible for Australia to close its refugee camps, which have been there for over two decades. In turn, the United States will be able to shut its camps in Costa Rica that are packed with refugees running from Central American violence (all of them will now be settled in Australia). There has been no comment from the Obama administration regarding how these negotiations are going, as well as the proposed policies to address refugees. The situation gets even trickier considered that the Trump administration will be in place January next year. Mr. Trump, on the campaign trail, vowed to implement strict vetting procedures for refugees before they are allowed into the United States. This is probably why both Australia and the United States are rushing this deal.

Australia says that the goal is to have its asylum seekers settled in a safe country. As long as that is possible, the deal can go right ahead. That’s according to Kon Karapanagiotidis, an executive at the Australian resource center for asylum seekers. Mr. Kon emphasizes that the important thing is to have the deal sealed quickly and an urgent manner given the physical and mental health of most of the refugees.

It’ll be interesting to see whether the two countries will manage to arrive at a conclusion and seal the deal before Mr. Obama says goodbye to the Whitehouse in the next two months.