The first group of refugees, currently held in Australian detention facilities in Nauru and on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea, are expected to soon depart, according to a statement released Wednesday by Australia’s immigration ministry.
About 50 refugees have been accepted by the U.S., Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said in an interview with Australian media. “I just want to thank again, President Trump for continuing with that arrangement,” he said.
Trump has repeatedly expressed 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.-run facilities in Costa Rica.
“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.
Allegations of abuse and inhumane treatment at the Nauru and Manus detention facilities continue to dog Australia. Earlier this year, the Australian government agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit brought by former and current detainees on Manus Island, which is scheduled to close later this year, who say they suffered physical and psychological harm.