About 50 refugees are expected to leave Manus Island and Nauru in coming weeks to start new lives in the US, as Australia continues the slow process of emptying the immigration camps.
The refugees, who received their final approvals on Wednesday morning, will join about 230 others who have been resettled in America.
“We’re continuing to work with the United States and this is the next step in that process,” coalition frontbencher Darren Chester told Sky News.
“We must never forget how we got in this position. It was the Labor Party that had an open door policy which led to so many people being put in detention and people drowning at sea.
“So we’re trying to work our way through the situation. Our border protection policies have worked, and we’re endeavouring to reach a solution in partnership with other nations.”
Since resettlements under the deal started in September, about 145 refugees have left Nauru and 85 have departed Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island.
Greens Senator Nick McKim said the latest development was good news for those directly affected.
“But it’s not good news for the majority of men, women and children on Manus Island and Nauru who have now clicked up over five years in offshore detention and have no idea what the future holds for them,” he said.
There are about 309 people left on Nauru and several hundred on Manus Island.
Labor senator Kristina Keneally said Australians wanted a speedy resolution to clearing the offshore camps, with genuine refugees stuck in cruel conditions for too long.
“The Turnbull government needs to get moving, and if Labor comes to government, we need to be clear that we are working hard with our allies around the world to find a solution to this,” Senator Keneally said.
We’ve found a solution – a partial solution – with the United States. We have an offer from New Zealand.”
Senator Keneally said Labor supported offshore immigration processing but could not support leaving people to languish without hope.
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton seized on her “pathetic” comments, saying Senator Keneally was “all talk” and Labor was soft on border protection.
“Labor put the people on Manus & Nauru. She talks a big game but let’s see if she has the guts to change the policy at conference,” Mr Dutton posted to Twitter.
The United Nations Association of Australia is demanding an immediate end to offshore detention, and wants “at least” temporary protection in Australia offered to those who cannot be safely repatriated or resettled in another country.
“The UNAA believes this is possible without compromising Australia’s strong border protection framework,” it said in a statement on Wednesday.
Under the deal reached with the previous Obama administration – derided as the worst ever by now-president Donald Trump – the US agreed to take up to 1250 refugees from Australia’s offshore detention centres.