Uncertainty lingers over US deal for men on Manus

9:21 pm on 13 December 2016

The resettlement deal between Australia and the United States is a political game designed to maintain calm in the camps, says a refugee held on Papua New Guinea's Manus Island.

Others on the island said there was little clarity on the deal struck over their future.

Members of Greenpeace hold up a sign  in front of the Opera House in Sydney on February 14, 2016.

Members of Greenpeace hold up a sign in front of the Opera House in Sydney on February 14, 2016. Photo: AFP PHOTO / Peter PARKS

A month ago, Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull confirmed his government had reached an agreement with the US regarding refugees held in offshore processing centres after having tried to reach Australia by boat.

At the time, there were 872 people in the offshore processing centre on Manus Island and 390 people in the other centre on Nauru.

Refugees and asylum seekers had cautiously welcomed the deal after Canberra had earlier ruled out resettlement in Australia.

Pakistani refugee Naiseem Haider, on Manus, said there were many rumours sweeping the camp, and they had been told it could take another 16 months of processing to get to the US.

But he said no US officials had come to speak to the refugees about the plan.

"Now it's all political games with us and they are just playing with us to stay calm here and to show to the world that they are processing and they are sending us to USA. But in this deal I can't see anything. Even there is no happiness with these deals."

Mr Haider said the refugees could not bear another 16 months of waiting.

PNG Immigration in recent days has told the men held on the island the deal is still in place, but a refugee spokesperson said, with no details, rumours were circulating.

He said the uncertainty was adding to the men's frustrations and the mental hardship of the past three and a half years of detention.

Malcolm Turnbull, Prime Minister of Australia, addresses the United Nations high-level summit on large movements of refugees and migrants. 19 Sep 2016

Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull says refugees and asylum seekers who attempt to reach Australia by boat will be banned from the country for life. Photo: UN Photo/JC McIlwaine

A PNG Supreme Court ruled in April that holding the men on Manus against their will was illegal, leaving it incumbent on the PNG and Australian governments to close the centre.

No timeline has been given for the closure, although the US deal has opened a possible breakthrough.

There are questions over whether the reported one-off refugee resettlement deal for detainees on Manus and Nauru will stand when the administration of US President-elect Donald Trump takes power.

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs