Australia continues to dispute claims made by the United Nations that it has reached a deal to resettle refugees being held on two remote Pacific detention centers on its soil.
Filippo Grandi, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, said Monday the agency had reached an agreement with Canberra that it would help 1,250 asylum seekers currently being held in Papua New Guinea and Nauru resettle in the United States, with “the clear understanding” that “vulnerable refugees” with close family ties in Australia would be allowed to enter there.
But Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told reporters Tuesday the government’s policy about people attempting to reach Australia by boat has been “clear and consistent” — they will be sent to either Papua New Guinea or Nauru and never resettled in Australia.
Bishop’s statement echoed those made Monday by Immigration Minister Peter Dutton, who denied that such a deal had been reached.
The policy was implemented in 2013 under Turnbull’s predecessor, Tony Abbott.
The initiative to resettle the 1,250 asylum seekers in the U.S. was reached late last year between Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and then-President Barack Obama. Obama’s successor, Donald Trump, says he will honor the agreement, despite denouncing it as a “dumb deal” in a tweet posted in February.