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Donald Trump will stop Australia-US refugee deal: US congressman Brian Babin
8:41 pm GMT+12, 09/01/2017, United States

Donald Trump "will do everything in his power" to halt the refugee deal between Australia and the US, according to a hard-line Texan congressman who is confident no resettlements will ever take place from Manus Island or Nauru.

More than two months after the agreement between outgoing President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was announced, slow progress on applications and lengthy security vetting by the US Department of Homeland Security is raising fear among those held in the Australian offshore immigration detention centres, ahead of Trump's inauguration on January 20.

Texas Republican Brian Babin, a prominent critic of President Obama's refugee resettlement policies, called the one-off Australian deal "madness" and said the incoming administration would overturn it.

A member of the hard-right Freedom Caucus, the two-term representative of Texas's 36th congressional district said Trump would block any of the planned resettlements facilitated by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees because of risks to the safety and security of America's citizens.

"I am confident President-elect Trump will do everything in his power to put an immediate stop to this secret Australian-US refugee deal that should have simply never happened in the first place," he told Fairfax Media.

"It was made behind doors without any input from Congress. In fact, when Congress asked for details on the agreement and the refugees, the Obama administration refused to share the information.

"This secret deal to import dangerous refugees into the US is exactly what the American people soundly rejected in November with the election of Donald Trump."

The comments follow similar criticism from the influential chairmen of the House and Senate judiciary committees, who said in November the White House had "left Americans in the dark".

As part of the agreement in New York in September, Australia also committed $130 million for further aid to displaced people around the world.

Optimism exists among Australian diplomats in the US that refugee resettlements will still proceed, even taking into account Trump's mooted ban on Muslim immigration and inflammatory campaign rhetoric about refugees.

One US-based immigration expert said a wider refugee ban was likely when Trump took office and suggested PM Turnbull start exploring other options.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton refuses to discuss progress of the deal, while a spokesman for Turnbull said he remained confident it would survive the change of administration.

Asylum seeker advocates in Australia said US immigration officials were due back on Nauru over the weekend, with about 100 people there currently being processed for possible resettlement.

Homeland Security officials are expected in Nauru in February.

On Manus Island, detainees are expecting immigration officials next month but no list of possible transfers has been prepared.

Last month, Immigration and Border Protection Department secretary Michael Pezzullo and senior officials made a secret visit to the US to establish ties with members of Trump's circle on the resettlement plan, also talking up the Coalition's hard-line Operation Sovereign Borders border protection regime.

SOURCE: SMH/PACNEWS


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