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Trump Administration Takes Steps to Implement Bilateral Agreement with Australia Regarding Refugees


Shortly after President Trump was elected in November 2016, Australia and the United States finalized a bilateral agreement pursuant to which the United States committed to accepting refugees from Australian-backed immigration detention camps located in Nauru and Papua New Guinea. While Trump criticized the deal after his inauguration, his administration has nevertheless taken steps to implement it.

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1 Australian Government, Department of Immigration and Border Control, Operation Sovereign Borders, at

2 Id.

3 Elibritt Karlsen, Parliament of Australia, Australia's Offshore Processing of Asylum Seekers in Nauru and PNG: A Quick Guide to Statistics and Resources (December 2016), available at

4 In 2016, Australia spent over $1.1 billion on its offshore detention facilities. See id.

5 Robb M. Stewart, Australia Strikes Deal to Resettle Refugees in U.S. U.S. to Vet Refugees; Most Are from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran and Sri Lanka, Wall St. J. (Nov. 12, 2016).

6 Parliament of Australia, Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee—Serious Allegations of Abuse, Self-Harm and Neglect of Asylum Seekers in Relation to the Nauru Regional Processing Centre, and Any Like Allegations in Relation to the Manus Regional Processing Centre Report, at vi (Apr. 2017), available at;query=Id%3A%22publications%2Ftabledpapers%2F8a71c329-c6de-4ca0-82f4-de5a61931e67%22.

7 Paul Farrell, Nick Evershed & Helen Davidson, The Nauru Files: Cache of 2,000 Leaked Reports Reveal Scale of Abuse of Children in Australian Offshore Detention, Guardian (Aug. 10, 2016), at

8 Namah v Pato [2016] PGSC 13; SC1497 (Papau N.G.).

9 Prime Minister of Australia Malcolm Turnbull Press Release, Refugee Resettlement from Regional Processing Centres (Nov. 13, 2016), at

10 U.S. Dep't of State Press Release, Remarks by Secretary of State John Kerry (Nov. 13, 2016), at

11 UNHCR Press Release, UNHCR to Endorse the Australia-United States Relocations as “Offshore Processing” Arrangements Fail Refugees (Nov. 13, 2016), at

12 Helen Davidson, Senior US Republicans Criticize ‘Secret’ Refugee Deal with Australia, Guardian (Nov. 25, 2016), at; Zoe Daniel & Stephanie March, US Refugee Deal: Architect of Deal Says Arrangement Loosely Based on Australia ‘Doing More, ABC News (Mar. 21, 2017), at

13 Stewart, supra note 5. In September 2016, at then-President Obama's global migration summit, Australia announced it would resettle migrants from U.S.-backed detention camps in exchange for the United States taking refugees in Australia's island detention centers. Tara Jon, U.S. and Australia Might Be Close to a Deal on Refugee Swap, Time (Nov. 11, 2016), at

14 Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Speech at President Obama's Leaders' Summit on Refugees (Sept. 21, 2016), at; see also Dep't of Homeland Security Press Release, U.S. Expands Initiatives to Address Central American Migration Challenges (July 26, 2016), at

15 Daniel & March, supra note 12.

16 Id.

17 White House Press Release, Readout of the President's Call with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (Jan. 28, 2017), at

18 Greg Miller & Philip Rucker, ‘This Was the Worst Call by Far’: Trump Badgered, Bragged and Abruptly Ended Phone Call with Australian Leader, Wash. Post (Feb. 2, 2017), at

19 White House Press Release, Press Briefing by Press Secretary Sean Spicer (Jan. 31, 2017), at

20 Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump), Twitter (Feb. 1, 2017), at

21 White House Press Release, Press Briefing by Press Secretary Sean Spicer (Feb. 2, 2017), at

22 Zoe Daniel & Stephanie Anderson, US Officials Fingerprint Refugees on Manus Island as Part of US-Australia Resettlement Deal, ABC News (Apr. 5, 2017), at

23 White House Press Release, Remarks by the Vice President and Australian Prime Minister Turnbull at a Press Conference (Apr. 22, 2017), at

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American Journal of International Law
  • ISSN: 0002-9300
  • EISSN: 2161-7953
  • URL: /core/journals/american-journal-of-international-law
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