CHENNAI: In a big breakthrough, the US government has reportedly agreed to honour the US-Australia refugee deal under which hundreds of refuges, including Sri Lankan refugees from Tamil Nadu, held in off-shore detention centres on the Pacific Island nation, the Republic of Nauru and Papua New Guinea’s Manus Inland, will be resettled in the US.
This was confirmed by the Australian High Commissioner to India Harinder Sidhu on Friday while speaking to the media. She said the US vice-president Mike Pence visited Australia two weeks ago and confirmed that Donald Trump administration agreed to honour the refugee deal, which was initially caught in rough weather.
“Currently, the vetting process is going on. Once it is completed, the eligible people will be resettled in the US. It is a one-off agreement,” she said and added that there were about 1,500 people in these camps.
In 2014, the Australian government made an announcement that the country would no longer be allowing people coming by boat illegally. Most of these refugees took the dangerous sea route to reach Australia and were held and kept in off-shore ‘detention’ islands.
Meanwhile, Harinder Sidhu has tried to downplay the fear of the Indian workforce losing out on opportunities because of stricter work visas being introduced by Australia. “There is always demand for Indian skilled workers in IT and hospitality industry. Australia doesn’t have such skilled workforce. We are falling short. What we are doing is doing away with single temporary work visa, which we called 457 and replace it with two different class of visas – short term and medium-term visas.
This is part of an ongoing review and streamlining of the Australian visa system. It is just to bring more clarity,” she said.
To a query, Sidhu said these change of rules did not have any bearing on students opting to study in Australian universities. There was no proposal to change the student visa rules. In fact, the number of Indian students going to Australia is growing year after year.
“In 2014, the number was 46,000; in 2015 it was 53,000 and in 2016 the number grew to 60,000. This year we are seeing a record number of applications,” she said.