23 Jan 2018

58 Manus refugees bound for US

4:17 pm on 23 January 2018

Fifty-eight refugees detained by Australia on Papua New Guinea's Manus Island will fly out from Port Moresby today for resettlement in the United States.

Manus Island refugees waiting at Port Moresby airport.

Manus Island refugees waiting at Port Moresby airport. Photo: Refugee Action Coalition

Refugee advocates said 40 left this morning and another 18 would follow later today through a deal struck between the Australian government and the former US president Barack Obama.

They said the men would fly to the Philippines and split into two groups bound for Los Angeles and New York.

SBS news reported the men would be resettled in various US locations including North Carolina, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Georgia.

130 refugees detained on Nauru have also been accepted for US resettlement and advocates said they would depart some time in February.

One refugee told the Refugee Action Coalition, "I am very happy to be free of the hell that the Australian government made for us on Manus. But we are sad for those who are still waiting so long. We can't stop thinking of everyone who are still on Manus. We all need freedom."

The Kurdish journalist and refugee Behrouz Boochani, who remains on Manus Island, told Australia's Human Rights Law Centre, today's news was bittersweet.

"It's a great feeling when you see the faces of the people who were under torture for years who have gotten freedom," he said.

"On the other hand it's very sad when you see the faces of people who are still living in an uncertain situation and don't know anything about their future."

Last year, a group of about 50 refugees held in both countries were resettled under the deal for the US to accept up to 1250 from Australian offshore detention.

Advocates said about 2000 refugees remained in PNG and Nauru, including 150 children.

Many have been held for five years in the impoverished Pacific nations under Australia's policy of indefinitely detaining displaced people offshore who try to reach Australia by boat to seek asylum.

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