USA + 3 more

Nauru and Manus Island refugees yet to be vetted under US-Australia deal

By political reporters Stephanie Anderson and Julie Doyle

Key points:

  • Department told Senate Estimates Committee US officials yet to start vetting refugees
  • Australia and the US made the deal under the Obama administration
  • Immigration Department still confident refugees will be resettled in the coming months

The Immigration Department says United States officials have not started the vetting process for refugees currently held on Nauru and Manus Island.

The deal to take refugees from Manus Island and Nauru was brokered between the Federal Government and the US in the closing weeks of the Obama administration.

Earlier this month, US President Donald Trump criticised the agreement as "dumb", incorrectly labelled refugees as "illegal immigrants" and cited there were "thousands" of people instead of 1,250.

Mr Trump later said he "loved" Australia, but has continued to raise concerns over the deal.

Today, Department of Immigration and Border Protection secretary Mike Pezzullo told a Senate Estimates Committee that preliminary screening had started as part of Australia's deal with the US to resettle refugees, but officials from the US Department of Homeland Security had not been authorised to start formally vetting applicants.

Under questioning from Greens senator Nick McKim, Mr Pezullo confirmed they were waiting for the go-ahead from the Trump administration.

"US officials are currently not in a position to undertake the vetting until they get that direction," he said.

"I would say it's in the foreseeable future."

However, the Immigration Department is confident refugees on Nauru and Manus Island will be resettled in the United States within the next few months despite delays in the vetting process.

Mr Pezzullo said preliminary screening had been done and US officials were poised to start vetting as soon as they received presidential approval.

"As we've made clear, our colleagues in Homeland Security are not in a position yet to start their processes but they'll certainly be able to conduct themselves in a very expedited fashion given the amount of preliminary work that's been done," he said.


Australian Broadcasting Corporation