Editorial: Turnbull put politics before welfare of refugeesComment: Leak reveals PM to be tough, skilled and indifferent to human sufferingThe full transcript of the Trump-Turnbull call
Refugees and advocates are in despair over Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s admission, revealed in a leaked transcript, that Donald Trump could take as few as 100 or even zero refugees from Manus Island and Nauru under the US refugee deal.
They have also accused Mr Turnbull of lying when he insisted ‘s acceptance of refugees from Central America was unrelated to the US deal and did not constitute a “people swap”, claims that have been undermined by the leaked document.
During his explosive phone call with President Trump in January, a transcript of which was obtained by The Washington Post, Mr Turnbull won over the reluctant President by assuring him the US was not bound to accept a single refugee.
“The agreement … does not require you to take 2000 people. It does not require you to take any,” he told Mr Trump. “The obligation is for the United States to look and examine and take up to and only if they so choose – 1250 to 2000. Every individual is subject to your vetting.
“You can decide to take them or to not take them after vetting. You can decide to take 1000 or 100. It is entirely up to you. The obligation is to only go through the process.”
Those words have angered refugee advocates and alarmed refugees themselves, who were peacefully demonstrating on Friday afternoon under the close watch of police.
Refugee Action Coalition spokesman Ian Rintoul said the remarks showed “it has never been a substantial deal” and was “an appalling scam perpetrated on the refugees and the n people”.
Iranian refugee and journalist Behrouz Boochani, who is on Manus Island, described the arrangement as “a fake deal … to waste time”. “I’m sure that there is not any option to send people to America,” he said.
He said refugees were in despair as authorities begin to shut down the regional processing centre, which is due to close by October 31. “The situation is critical,” he said.
No refugees have been accepted by the US, however, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection told the Senate in May that dozens of refugees were now in the final stages of the application process.
Mr Turnbull on Friday noted the arrangement “has always been subject to American vetting procedures”. “It’s always better when these conversations remain confidential”, he said, but would not comment further on the “supposed transcript”.
During the phone call, Mr Turnbull linked the deal to ‘s acceptance of a group of Central American refugees living in Costa Rica. This agreement pre-dated the US deal and the government has denied the two arrangements amount to a “people swap”.
But Mr Turnbull promised President Trump that would “hold up our end of the bargain by taking in our country [people] that you need to move on from”. He went further, offering to “take anyone that you want us to take” as long as they did not arrive by boat.
The deal “requires, in return, for us to do a number of things for the United States”, Mr Turnbull said, without detailing the “things”.
Government sources insisted the two arrangements were negotiated separately and at different times. They said Mr Turnbull only raised the Central America matter to help convince President Trump to honour the deal.
But Labor and the Greens seized on the transcript as proof of a “people swap”, with shadow immigration minister Shayne Neumann calling on the government to “come clean”.
Greens immigration spokesman Nick McKim said Mr Turnbull had been caught telling “a very clear lie”.
“His confession to Trump that it is a people swap shows his duplicity and lays bare the contempt he has for the n people and the truth,” Senator McKim told Fairfax Media.
Government sources expressed confidence that the deal for the US to take screened refugees from Manus and Nauru would not be affected by the latest ructions caused by the leak of the transcript.
Sources also said that the relationship between Mr Turnbull and Mr Trump had been good during their subsequent meetings.
With David Wroe
???Follow us on Facebook