UPDATE 2.04pm: Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and US President Donald Trump emphasised the “enduring strength and closeness” of the US-Australia relationship in a 25-minute phone call, the White House has said.
The phone call came just a day after Mr Trump signed an executive order suspending his country’s refugee program, throwing doubt on Australia’s refugee resettlement deal with the US, part of which has been sensationally blocked by a judge.
“Both leaders emphasised the enduring strength and closeness of the US-Australia relationship that is critical for peace, stability and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region and globally,” the White House said in a statement.
The leaders had been expected to discuss the refugee resettlement deal, in which some refugees on Manus Island or Nauru would be resettled in the US instead of Australia.
The White House statement made no mention of the issue.
Mr Turnbull’s office has released no further details about the phone call.
The US president put a four-month hold on allowing refugees into the US, just months after the Obama administration agreed to accept asylum seekers from Nauru and Manus Island.
In a press conference in Port Lincoln on Saturday, Mr Turnbull said he was “satisfied” the existing arrangements would remain in place.
“It’s quite clear that the administration has set out in the order the ability to deal with existing arrangements such as the one that we have,” Mr Turnbull said.
However, earlier in the week Mr Turnbull concede the deal may need to be “revisited”.
“All of these issues are ones that you have to revisit with the incoming administration, and we have done that,” he said on Thursday.
Muslim ban prompts outrage
As Mr Trump wound up his first week in the White House, appearing on Friday in a joint press conference for the first time with UK Prime Minister Theresa May, he announced sweeping changes to America’s refugee policies, which were set aside by a US judge on Saturday evening (US time), according to reports.
After Mr Trump sparked chaos at airports with the bans, a federal judge blocked part the executive order on immigration, ordering that refugees and others trapped at airports in the US should not be turned away at the border.
However, The New York Times reports that the judge did not order that they be allowed into the country and did not make a ruling on the legality of Mr Trump’s actions.
Mr Trump ordered strict new screening for refugees to keep “radical Islamic terrorists” out of the United States.
On Friday, he joined Defence Secretary Jim Mattis for the signing of an executive action to bring changes to the nation’s refugee policies, temporarily banning immigration from seven mostly Muslim nations and giving priority to Christian immigrants.
“They’ve been horribly treated,” Mr Trump said of Syrian Christians seeking refugee status.
“Do you know if you were a Christian in Syria it was impossible, at least very tough to get into the United States? If you were a Muslim you could come in, but if you were a Christian, it was almost impossible … And I thought it was very, very unfair. So we are going to help them.”
The order imposes a temporary ban on all entry to the United States from countries with terrorism concerns.
It’s unclear from the law cited in the directive specifically which countries are affected.
However, a draft of the order earlier this week designated seven predominantly Muslim countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
There was a flood of reports on social media that the Department of Homeland Security had immediately enforced the ban, preventing refugees and professionals from travelling into the US.
Visas being denied immediately. Chaos at airports and in the air. #MuslimBan will apply to green card holders attempting to return tonight.
— Abed A. Ayoub (@aayoub) January 28, 2017
It was also reported that Iranian film director Asghar Farhadi, who is nominated for an Oscar, may be unable to attend the prestigious event. He is nominated for best foreign language film for The Salesman, which is filmed in Iran.
Confirmed: Iran's Asghar Farhadi won't be let into the US to attend Oscar's. He's nominated for best foreign language film…#MuslimBan
— Trita Parsi (@tparsi) January 28, 2017
The order also halts all entry to the US by Syrian refugees until the president determines changes to the refugee assistance program ensure admitting them won’t compromise national security.
The Council of American Islamic Relations responded by announcing it would file a lawsuit against the executive order.
The lawsuit will be filed on behalf of 20 individuals and will challenge the constitutionality of the order, “because it’s apparent underlying motive is to ban people of the Islamic faith from Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States”.
— sarah amy harvard (@amyharvard_) January 28, 2017
During the past budget year, the US accepted 84,995 refugees, including 12,587 people from Syria, where a civil war has been raging.
Former president Barack Obama set the refugee limit for this budget year at 110,000, but Trump plans to cut that to 50,000.
False panic over visa waiver program
Following Mr Trump’s executive order, a CNN journalist incorrectly shared news on Twitter that the Trump administration was suspending the visa waiver program.
The program allows citizens from 37 countries to merely complete an online application form and pay a small fee to gain entry to the US.
The list includes Australia, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, member states of the European Union, and allies including Japan, South Korea and Singapore.
White House correspondent Dan Merica tweeted out the names of the affected countries before it was corrected.
Trump's order suspends the U.S. visa INTERVIEW waiver program (not the whole program) which impacts travelers from these U.S. allies: pic.twitter.com/TCxo4fS5fH
— Dan Merica (@danmericaCNN) January 28, 2017
It was retweeted almost 700 times before it was deleted and replaced with a post edited to say: “Trump’s order suspends the US visa INTERVIEW waiver program (not the whole program).”
The visa interview waiver program only pertains to some visitors to the US seeking to renew an existing nonimmigrant visa, who will now be required to take part in an in-person interview
A chat with Putin
Meanwhile, as President Trump held hands with the British Prime Minister Theresa May as they walked through the White House, he said he believed Brexit would be a “wonderful thing” for the two countries, London’s Telegraph reported.
Mr Trump’s busy 48 hours doing the “meet and greet” with world leaders continued as he planned his first scheduled telephone call on Sunday with Russian president Vladimir Putin.
In his press conference with British PM May, Trump said he would be talking to President Putin but hinted it was still “very early” to be talking about Russian sanctions, according to The Guardian.
– with ABC