Bishop Philip Huggins of the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne has called on the Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, to bring asylum seekers still languishing in offshore detention to Australia – following days of speculation surrounding a US resettlement deal which had been struck with the Obama administration last year.
Australia has refused to accept the refugees – most of whom are men
from Iran, Afghanistan and Iraq – and instead holds them in offshore
detention centres on two Pacific islands.
Bishop Huggins’ intervention comes after a phone call between
President Trump and the Australian Prime Minister called the deal into
question: “This matter has been wounding the soul of our nation for long
enough. The people on Nauru and Manus are, like ourselves, made in the
divine image and likeness,” Bishop Huggins said in a statement. “The
dignity of our nation requires nothing less than such an amnesty, as
does the Prime Minister's own dignity.”
Under the deal, up to 1250 asylum seekers would be resettled in the
United States. However following the phone call with the Australian
leader, Mr Trump later tweeted that he would “study this dumb deal”.
Mr Turnbull has maintained that Mr Trump agreed to uphold the deal during their 25-minute phone conversation last weekend.
Large numbers of those still in detention come from some of the seven
nationalities that Mr Trump banned from entering the US for 90 days by
executive order on 30 January.
The executive order also suspends the US
refugee program for 120 days.