Australia to move child refugees on Nauru to the US

2019-02-03 14:01

Australia has announced the last four children still in Nauru detention centre will soon be moved to the US after the two countries struck a deal.

Nauru is a tiny island country, covering just 21km2, located northeast of Australia and close to the equator where hot and humid temperatures prevail all year.

READ: Asylum seekers at risk as Nauru cuts appeal court - lawyer

It was one of two camps where refugees and asylum seekers were put after Australia announced five years ago that anyone who tried to claim asylum after arriving by sea would never be allowed to settle.

"Every asylum seeker child has now been removed from Nauru or has had their claim processed and has a clear path off the island," Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Sunday.

Women, families and children were held on Nauru, while single men were kept on Manus, an island belonging to Papua New Guinea (PNG), where some of them were kept for five years.

New Zealand 'back door'

At least 46 children were born on Nauru.

"Over the past five months, we've been working quietly and methodically to remove children from Nauru. Today, there are only four children on Nauru and they will resettle permanently in the US," David Coleman, Australian Immigration minister, told reporters.

When Morrison took over as prime minister last August, there were 113 asylum-seeking children on Nauru.

The US agreed in 2016 to accept up to 1 250 refugees from Nauru and Papua New Guinea, but the vast majority of them have not yet been accepted.

New Zealand has also offered to take some of the refugees, but Australia has declined the offer because it fears that would allow asylum seekers to enter through the "back door".

Australia has stopped publishing data on the number of refugees held in the centres. Local media and refugee advocates estimate close to 1 000 people are currently held.

According to David Manne, legal expert with the Refugee and Immigration Legal Centre, Sunday's announcement is good news for the children but said Australia still had no policy on what to do with ones who might arrive in the future.

"After years and years of around 200 children being sent from Australia to Nauru and being held in cruel and degrading conditions, finally they can rebuild their lives after the devastating harm that has been caused to them," Manne said.

"Any future arrivals under the Australian policy would resolve in other children being held in the same kind of inhuman conditions. What we don't have is any significant and detailed shift in Australian policy if asylum seekers were to assert their fundamental human rights to seek asylum."

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Read more on:    australia  |  refugees  |  migrants
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