Australia

Donald Trump to uphold asylum deal, Australia says

US President Donald Trump speaks on the phone with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull Image copyright EPA
Image caption Donald Trump speaks on the phone with Malcolm Turnbull

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has thanked US President Donald Trump for upholding an agreement to resettle asylum seekers in the US.

The deal, struck with the Obama administration, applies to people held in Australia's offshore detention centres in Papua New Guinea and Nauru.

The Australian leader on Monday confirmed he had spoken to Mr Trump, and the agreement would go ahead.

Mr Turnbull would not comment on Mr Trump's controversial immigration ban.

"It is not my job as prime minister of Australia to run a commentary on the domestic policies of other countries," he told reporters in Canberra.

Mr Trump's executive order, signed on Friday, halted the entire US refugee programme for 120 days, indefinitely banned Syrian refugees, and suspended all nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries.

Asylum deal

Australia holds asylum seekers, many from Iran, Iraq, Sudan and Somalia, in centres on Papua New Guinea's Manus Island and Nauru.

Under the deal negotiated in November, offshore detainees were to be assessed and the most vulnerable resettled in the US.

Australia's tough policy of sending people who arrive by boat to offshore facilities has been criticised.

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Image caption Mr Turnbull says it is not his place to comment on US politics

Mr Turnbull said Mr Trump had confirmed he would honour the deal when the pair spoke by phone for 25 minutes on Sunday.

"We discussed the importance of border security," Mr Turnbull said. "The threat of illegal and irregular migration, and recognised that it is vital that every nation is able to control who comes across its borders."

He said he could not put a timeline on any resettlements, which were subject to "very rigorous" security screening by US immigration officials.

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Media captionPresident Trump: "It's not a Muslim ban, but we're totally prepared"

Mr Turnbull said he was not aware of any Australian dual nationals being denied entry to the US.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Australia would seek exemptions for its dual nationals.

"I have directed our officials in Washington DC to work with US officials to ensure any preferential treatment extended to any other country in relation to travel and entry to the United States is extended to Australia," she said in a statement.

Earlier, the opposition Labor Party criticised the government for being "missing in action".

"We've seen UK Prime Minister Theresa May make it clear that she does not support this travel ban," deputy leader Tanya Plibersek told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

"I think it would be very important for the Australian government to make a clear statement about its view on this discriminatory travel ban."

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