The US could take 1600 asylum-seekers from Australian detention centres

Photo: Scott Fisher/ Getty Images.

As many as 1600 asylum-seekers from Nauru and Manus Island could be resettled in the US after the Obama administration agreed to help Australia by taking refugees in a one-off deal.

As of November 30, 2015, there were a total of 1,852 people in immigration detention facilities in Australia.

The plans for the remaining 200 people is unknown. However, those who have already accepted resettlement options will not be eligible to be resettled in the US.

Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull announced the resettlement agreement, which the two countries began working on in January, over the weekend. The number of people the US would take was not known.

According to The Australian, the PM will ask Obama to resettle up to 1600 asylum-seekers from Nauru and Manus Island when they meet at the APEC forum in Lima, Peru this weekend.

The meeting will be the last time the two leaders come together before president-elect Donald Trump takes office.

In preparation, the US Department of Homeland Security officials will be in Australia this week to begin vetting applicants as refugees will need to pass US health and security checks.

The first refugees are expected to head to the US in early 2017.

Also part of a suite of measures to support the resettlement agreement is the Coalition’s proposal to hand down a “lifetime ban” to asylum-seekers who arrive in Australia illegally by boat.

While the government was pushing the Senate last week to back the legislation, Turnbull says the issue is still largely “hypothetical”.

“This argument that what happens if somebody becomes an American citizen and then 30 years later they want to come to Australia – well the Minister has a discretion. If there is some hypothetical case, the Minister has the discretion as the Minister has in pretty much every section of the Migration Act. And so that is something that can be dealt with on its merits,” he told Sky News.

Turnbull and immigration minister Peter Dutton have been under fire this week about the possibility that Trump may reverse Obama’s decision to take refugees.

Over the weekend Trump told US television program “60 Minutes” that he plans to deport or jail three million immigrants living in the US illegally upon taking office.

In a congratulatory phone call to Trump following the election, Turnbull did not discuss the resettlement deal. Instead he made a last-minute plea to him to continue with the Trans-Pacific Partnership but failed to persuade the Republican president-elect to reverse his position.

Turnbull is also expected to discuss Obama’s suspension of the TPP at the APEC meeting.

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