Sri Lankan asylum seekers held on Pacific island camps who could potentially find new lives in the United States are free to return home without fear of persecution, Sri Lanka’s prime minister said today. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe made the comments during a visit to Australia in which he discussed with his Australian counterpart Malcolm Turnbull bilateral cooperation on combating people smuggling. No Sri Lankan asylum seeker has reached Australia by boat since 2013.
But Sri Lankans, Iranians and Afghans are the largest national groups among more than 2,000 asylum seekers living on the Pacific islands nations of Nauru and Papua New Guinea. Australia pays the countries to house them.
Australia refuses to resettle any of them and President Donald Trump has agreed to honor an Obama administration deal to take up to 1,250 of them. Trump added that they will undergo “extreme vetting.”
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