As the fallout continues from uncertainty surrounding the Trump administration’s apparent backflip on resettlement plans for refugees on Manus Island and Nauru, asylum seeker advocacy groups are fearful of “self-harm” in the camps if the crisis is not resolved.
Save The Children director of policy and public affairs Mat Tinkler told The New Daily the refugees would be “coping very badly” with the uncertainty.
“Our experience when we worked on Nauru was that they did take notice of decisions made by governments around these issues,” Mr Tinkler said.
Mr Tinkler said that when a message was broadcast into the camps in October 2014 that a deal around temporary protection visas in Australia did not apply to those refugees, its impact was felt immediately.
“That was the time when we saw people take desperate acts, self harm, young children sewing their lips together, protest activity occurring in the camps because it directly impacts on their lives and their futures.”
However, Mr Tinkler remained confident the deal would still go ahead and blamed the “chaos” of the Trump administration rather than whether the deal would proceed.
“On the question of the apparent backflip this morning, I guess we’ll have to wait and see.”
“I think the backflip speaks more to the chaos of the Trump administration than whether or not the deal will proceed.”
“From what I can tell the deal has been confirmed in a direct phone conversation with President Trump and Prime Minister Turnbull and the President’s press secretary confirmed in a press conference in the United States and gave an indication of the numbers,” he said.
Prime Minister Turnbull also expressed confidence in the resettlement deal at a National Press Club lunch on Wednesday.
“The Trump administration has committed to progress with the arrangements to honour the deal,” he said referring to the deal entered into under the Obama administration.
Lives in Limbo
Asylum Seeker Resource Centre chief executive Kon Karapanagiotidis said doubt over the deal showed “the situation is far from resolved”.
The deal with United States to settle 1250 refugees was “grossly insufficient” as it would still leave around 900 asylum seekers in limbo, he said.
He questioned why Australia was “reliant on Trump” and called on the Prime Minister to show “moral leadership”.
“The way to do that would be to take the refugees ourselves. That would be a powerful message,” he told The New Daily.
“We’ve imprisoned these people for more than four years, causing great harm. We have a duty of care to them,” he said.
Although he was concerned by Mr Trump’s clampdown on immigration, Mr Karapanagiotidis would still support refugees being resettled there.
“As long as they were settled to freely remain in the United States and granted full rights,” he said.
He said those on Manus Island and Nauru who weren’t granted asylum would be at risk of persecution if they returned to their home countries.
“Their absence will draw them to attention of their authorities,” he said.
“We’re talking about Iraqis, Iranians, Afghans, people from undemocratic countries.”
“This would make them highly at risk of being persecuted.”
Director of Legal Advocacy for the Human Rights Law Centre, Daniel Webb, called on Prime Minister Turnbull on Sunday to “ensure safety for all”.
“This announcement is full of holes. No time frame, no numbers, no plan for what looks like the hundreds of people who will be left behind,” he said in a statement on the HRLC website.
“These 2000 lives are in Malcolm Turnbull’s hands, not Donald Trump’s.”
Save The Children’s Mr Tinkler told The New Daily he could “only speculate” on what “extreme vetting” meant in relation to the 1250 refugees selected for resettlement and what happens to the 900 left out of the deal.
“I think that is something you’d have to put to Donald Trump himself.”
“What i hope is that it doesn’t include a range of additional hurdles that these people at law have already established that they have a well-founded fear of persecution and therefore have a claim to refugee status,” he said.
“This flip-flopping is certainly not helpful.”
– with reporting by Luke Henriques-Gomes