Repeatedly expressing his disdain for the agreement struck under the Obama administration, which would see the U.S. accept 1,250 refugees from Australia in exchange for migrants detained in U.S.-led resettlement program from a camp in Costa Rica, U.S. President Donald Trump was thanked by Australia’s Primer Minister Malcom Turnbull for continuing the arrangement.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the first wave of around 50 refugees kept by Australia on the impoverished nations of Nauru and Papua New Guinea would soon be notified that they had been accepted by the United States. | Rod McGuirk/AP

Turnbull said the first 50 refugees, mostly from Iran, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, will be notified within days that they will be leaving the Pacific island camps in Nauru and on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea, where they have languished for years.

President Donald Trump described earlier this year as “dumb,” the refugee deal between Australia and the United States.

“I am the world’s greatest person that does not want to let people into the country. And now I am agreeing to take 2,000 people, and I agree I can vet them, but that puts me in a bad position,” Trump said in a phone call to Turnbull, a leaked transcript of which was published by the Washington Post in August.

Before being able to enter America, the refugees must undergo strict vetting by U.S. authorities. According to the BBC, up to a third of applicants for the deal are still waiting to be interviewed.

Australia will not settle any refugees who try to arrive by boat — a policy that the government says dissuades asylum seekers from attempting the dangerous and occasionally deadly ocean crossing from Indonesia.

Australia instead pays Papua New Guinea and Nauru to house asylum seekers in camps that have been plagued by reports of abuse and draconian conditions. Some of more than 2,000 asylum seekers have been in the island camps for more than four years.


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