Dozens of refugees in Australian centers transferred to US amid pandemic

Sydney, Australia, May 22 (efe-epa).- Forty-two refugees held in an Australian center in Papua New Guinea were transferred to the United States this week as part of an agreement between Canberra and Washington, human rights defenders confirmed to EFE on Friday.

On Thursday, 35 refugees left on a commercial flight from Port Moresby, while the other seven left Australia two days earlier, Refugee Action Coalition spokesman Ian Rintoul told EFE.

Refugee rights groups are “very concerned” about the situation the refugees will face given that in the US they will receive limited support for three months, and many of those previously sent under this agreement had lost their jobs or were in “desperate circumstances” even before the COVID-19 pandemic began, Rintoul said.

Over 38 million Americans have so far filed unemployment claims due to the crisis in the US, which is the global center of the pandemic, with 1.5 million confirmed coronavirus cases so far and about 94,000 deaths, according to the ongoing unofficial tally being kept by The Johns Hopkins University.

Many of the refugees or asylum seekers have been detained since 2013, when Australia sent them to detention centers on PNG’s Manus island and another compound located on the island nation of Nauru as part of the tightening of its immigration policy, which prevents entry by sea.

“In (a) country like Australia, seeking asylum is (a) crime itself (…) since 2013 hundreds of refugees like myself, many other(s), we’ve been sent to indefinite detentions where we spent 6/7 years,” Abdul Aziz, a refugee advocate who was once held on Manus island, wrote on his Twitter account Friday.

Aziz attached a photograph of his former roommate Omar Muhammed Jack, who was sent to Manus at the age of 17, and now at age 24 was one of those traveling to the US.

More than 700 refugees have been sent to the US under an agreement signed in 2016, although there are still 340 people remaining in immigration detention centers sponsored by Australia in the South Pacific.

Of this total, 65 are waiting to be sent to the US, but the situation is “extremely precarious” on Nauru and Manus, said Rintoul. EFE-EPA


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