One day after it was revealed that President Trump had a fiery phone call with his Australian counterpart over a refugee deal agreed upon under President Obama, U.S. immigration officials have postponed interviews with asylum seekers from one of the camps, Reuters reported.
Asylum seekers in the Australian camp on the Pacific island of Nauru told Reuters that their planned second-round interviews with U.S. officials have been postponed indefinitely.
“We are deeply concerned about the U.S. deal,” Imran Mohammad, 22, a stateless man from Myanmar told Reuters. “We don’t know what to believe and the uncertainty is getting worse and worse. It is killing us inside every day.”
Trump on Wednesday fired off about Australia and a dramatic report of an angry phone call between the nations’ leaders proves that the new U.S. commander in chief has changed the playing field for even America’s staunchest allies.
Do you believe it? The Obama Administration agreed to take thousands of illegal immigrants from Australia. Why? I will study this dumb deal!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 2, 2017
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was left scrambling to defend his country’s allegiance to the U.S. after The Washington Post published a report on Thursday detailing a tense exchange that allegedly took place during the Australian leader’s first telephone call with Trump since he became president.
During the call, the Post reported, Trump ranted about an agreement struck with the Obama administration that would allow a group of mostly Muslim refugees rejected by Australia to be resettled in the United States.
The newspaper said Trump dubbed it “the worst deal ever” and accused Turnbull of seeking to export the “next Boston bombers” — a reference to Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who were born in Kyrgyzstan and set off explosives at the 2013 Boston marathon.
Though Turnbull declined to confirm the report, he also didn’t deny it, apart from rejecting one detail — that Trump had hung up on him. The prime minister insisted his country’s relationship with the U.S. remained strong, and that the refugee deal with the U.S. was still on.
Yet shortly after, Trump took to Twitter to slam the agreement, tweeting: “Do you believe it? The Obama Administration agreed to take thousands of illegal immigrants from Australia. Why? I will study this dumb deal!”
Trump’s tweet overstated the number of people involved. The U.S. agreed to take some of about 1,670 asylum seekers.
Reuters reported that there are about 1,200 refugees, mostly single men, being held on Manus Island and Nauru.
“They just play with us,” one unidentified Iranian woman said. “I wish we were dead in the ocean once instead of dying slowly, here in the exile.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report