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The US, Is Still Taking Refugees From Australia

Refugees in Australia face an unenviable choice: stay in indefinite detention, or start a new life at the epicentre of a global pandemic.


Three refugees flew from immigration detention in Australia to start new lives in the United States this week, despite the coronavirus pandemic placing a chokehold on international resettlement.

The men, two from Sudan and one from Pakistan, jetted together from Melbourne through Qatar to America, where they parted ways before reaching their final destinations of Tennessee, Maryland and Pennsylvania. The US took them under the refugee swap deal between the two countries.

The flights went ahead despite a global pause on refugee resettlements announced by the United Nations High Commission on Refugees in mid-March. The US also suspended its refugee program because of the coronavirus on March 19, with the exception of emergency cases.

The ongoing operation of the resettlement program in the US leaves refugees in Australia and its offshore detention camps who have been accepted under the program with an invidious choice: to stay in detention, where many have been for the past seven years, or start a new life in America as it is ravaged by a deadly pandemic.

For Sali, a Sudanese refugee who landed in Maryland on Wednesday after a journey lasting more than 24 hours, the choice was easy.

“Of course there is the coronavirus, but what can I do? If you die inside, is that better? It’s better to die outside. You’re free,” he told BF News by telephone from the house where he will be in quarantine alone for the next fortnight.

Having explained that his family did not know his situation, and that he could not be fully identified in a news story, Sali was asked what pseudonym he would prefer to use. He initially offered a code: Q1K 022. That is his “boat ID” — the number Australia assigned to asylum seekers who sought safety on its shores in 2013 and 2014, and who were sent to detention camps in Papua New Guinea and on Nauru.

Sali had been called by his boat ID since October 2013, one of the many ways he said the Australian government treated him like an animal. After initially insisting he be called by his Boat ID in this article, he agreed to use his nickname, Sali.


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The US, Is Still Taking Refugees From Australia The US, Is Still Taking Refugees From Australia Reviewed by streakoggi on May 08, 2020 Rating: 5

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