The second group of refugees to be accepted for resettlement in the USA has left Port Moresby for the United States this morning (Tuesday 23 January) - photos attached, leaving the Port Moresby hotel early this morning; a small group of the refugees in the departure lounge of Port Moresby airport. "But we are sad for those who are still waiting so long", one refugee said in an emailed statement.
Last year, 54 refugees from Australia's two offshore immigration islands, PNG's Manus Island and the independent Pacific state of Nauru, were resettled in the US. Numerous families on Nauru are from Iran or Somalia, two countries named in the travel ban, meaning they will nearly certainly not be eligible for US resettlement.
In exchange for the United States considering to resettle 1,250 refugees from Australia's offshore camps, Australia has agreed to take refugees from US-run refugee camps in Costa Rica. We can't stop thinking of everyone who are still on Manus.
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 USA president Barack Obama.
But no Iranians or Somalis are amongst those flying from Nauru or Manus Island.
Australia's hard-line immigration policies include sending people seeking asylum by boat to offshore detention camps for processing, with successive governments pledging that nobody arriving by boat can ever be resettled in Australia. Each week sees more people brought to Australia for medical treatment they can't get on Nauru.
The deal is designed, in part, to help Australia empty its controversial offshore detention centres, where almost 2,000 men, women and children are held.
Another group of 130 refugees on Nauru has been accepted for resettlement and is expected to leave the island in the next days or weeks.
Advocates said about 2000 refugees remained in PNG and Nauru, including 150 children. The refugees were living at the Manus Island facilities, which house only men, and had been detained by Australia for several years after trying to reach the mainland by boat.
The asylum-seekers are the third and largest group to be given U.S. resettlement, ending a three-month hiatus in a transfer programme that had been described by U.S. President Donald Trump as a "dumb" deal.
"There's still no clarity around how many people will go to the U.S., and how long before they are resettled there", he said.