Officials from the United States have arrived in Australia to begin the assessment of refugees held in centres on the Pacific island nation of Nauru and on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea for resettlement in the US, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said on Saturday.
Last week, Australia and the US announced they had struck a one-off deal that a substantial number of the 1,200 refugees, from Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq, held on the two islands would be resettled in the US. The Australian government faces both internal and international criticism over the treatment and living conditions of these refugees.
Amnesty International's Senior Director for Research Anna Neistat, who is one of the few to visit these detention centres, has said about Nauru:
"The distressing and heartbreaking accounts of deteriorating mental health, discrimination and violent attacks, sexual violence, inadequate medical care and harassment that I heard from mothers, fathers, adults and children as young as six, paint a picture of people driven to absolute despair."
"Officials from Homeland Security are in Australia right now in fact, and they will be going to Nauru shortly," Turnbull said on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Lima, Peru.
American officials would determine the timeline of resettlement, said Turnbull. Earlier this week, the prime minister said the US officials would decide the actual number.
The offer will not include the asylum seekers who arrived in the offshore centres from November 13 onwards.