First refugees taken from offshore detention under US refugee swap deal

Security fences surround buildings inside the Manus Island detention centre in Papua New Guinea, February 11, 2017. Picture taken February 11, 2017. (Behrouz Boochani/Handout via REUTERS)
Updated 24 September 2017
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First refugees taken from offshore detention under US refugee swap deal

SYDNEY: Refugees have left one of Australia’s offshore detention centers on Sunday for the United States, an asylum seeker and a refugee advocate said, as part of a swap brokered by former US president Barack Obama last year.
Refugee Action Coalition’s Ian Rintoul told Reuters he had spoken with some of the group by phone and that 22 men were in Port Moresby on Sunday night. Rintoul said the group had been told they would be flown to the United States via the Philippines on Wednesday.
“They’re happy they’re going, and they never want to hear about Australia again,” he said, speaking from Sydney.
Kurdish-Iranian journalist Behrouz Boochani, who has been held at the Manus Island detention center in Papua New Guinea, said in a Facebook post that “about 25 men” had left the center around 8am local time.
Australia’s Department of Immigration and Border Control did not respond to requests for comment on the move on Sunday.
The move comes days after Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull gave the first official timetable for when the 1,250 people in the centers on Manus Island and Nauru would be resettled in the US.
Turnbull said Australia would begin resettling several dozen Central American refugees within weeks under the deal that US President Donald Trump described as “dumb” but has nevertheless said Washington will honor.
“There will be about 25 from both Manus and Nauru (that) will be going to the United States and I just want to thank again President Trump for continuing with that arrangement,” Turnbull said in a video statement.
While Trump has said he would honor the swap agreement, concerns remain about how many asylum-seekers will be resettled from the Australian-run centers.


Singapore spent $12 million on US-N.Korea summit

Updated 24 min 2 sec ago
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Singapore spent $12 million on US-N.Korea summit

  • $12 million were spent on the historic US-North Korea summit
  • The meeting was the culmination of a rapid detente between Pyongyang and Washington

SINGAPORE: Singapore said Sunday it spent Sg$16.3 million ($12 million) on the historic US-North Korea summit, adding it was less than initially anticipated after some in the city-state complained about the high cost.
US President Donald Trump and the North’s leader Kim Jong Un met in Singapore on June 12 for talks aimed at ending a tense nuclear standoff.
The meeting was the culmination of a rapid detente between Pyongyang and Washington and saw Kim commit to working toward denuclearization, although critics noted the summit agreement was vague and non-binding.
Singapore, an affluent financial hub, was seen as a good choice for the summit due to its warm ties with both the US and North Korea, and reputation for strict order.
But some Singaporeans thought welcoming the mercurial leaders was more an annoyance than an honor, particularly when Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong estimated the tiny state would have to shell out Sg$20 million ($14.7 million) to host the meeting.
However in the end, the cost incurred by the government was about Sg$16.3 million, the biggest part of which was spent on security, said a ministry of foreign affairs spokesman in a statement.
It noted that Singapore had “supported the international efforts to achieve peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.”
Tightly-controlled Singapore rolled out a massive security operation for the meeting, deploying thousands of police, setting up road-blocks and banning flares and loudhailers near summit venues to prevent protests.
As well as the security operation, the Singapore government footed the bill for the delegation from the sanctions-hit North, including Kim’s stay at the luxury St. Regis hotel, according to the BBC.
They would have also had to pay a substantial amount for facilities for the huge number of journalists that covered the summit.
The clampdown was disruptive for many residents in the usually placid city-state of 5.6 million — although some observers said hosting the summit amounted to a PR coup that would ultimately benefit Singapore.