One of the world’s peak refugee groups is calling on Malcolm Turnbull and Donald Trump to extend their agreement to resettle refugees in the United States while warning of the “unconscionable” treatment of those who may be left behind.
As Mr Turnbull prepares to meet the US president in the White House, refugee advocates are lobbying for a bigger intake by the Trump administration to resettle people from Manus Island and Nauru.
The president of Refugees International, Eric Schwartz, warned that Australia could lead a “race to the bottom” on the treatment of refugees unless it found a new solution for those left on Manus and Nauru after the US completes its intake.
“We don’t want Australia to be leading the race to the bottom on refugee protection,” he told this newspaper.
“Given the circumstances these refugees are confronting, we would welcome the United States accepting more of them.
“But that should not let Australia off the hook.”
Mr Schwartz said Australia should end offshore detention and the “unacceptable” conditions on Manus Island and Nauru, warning the Australian policy “does not work”.
“Something has to change,” he said.
The agreement between Australia and the US sparked a fiery telephone conversation between Mr Turnbull and Mr Trump in January last year, when the President slammed the “worst deal ever” and sought to rewrite the terms agreed by his predecessor, Barack Obama.
Since then, however, the US appears to have accepted as many as 200 refugees. The Obama agreement said the US would consider up to 1250 applicants but put no obligation on the US as to the final number.
Fairfax Media reported last month that a second cohort of Manus Island refugees, consisting of 40 men who were mostly from Afghanistan and Pakistan, had flown to the United States.