Canberra, May 22 (IANS) Forty-two refugees held in an Australian centre in Papua New Guinea (PNG) were transferred to the US this week as part of an agreement between Canberra and Washington, human rights activists confirmed on Friday.
On Thursday, 35 refugees left on a commercial flight from Port Moresby, while the other seven left Australia two days earlier, Refugee Action Coalition spokesman Ian Rintoul told Efe news.
Refugee rights groups are "very concerned" about the situation the refugees will face given that in the US they will receive limited support for three months, and many of those previously sent under this agreement had lost their jobs or were in "desperate circumstances" even before the COVID-19 pandemic began, Rintoul said.
Over 38 million Americans have so far filed unemployment claims due to the crisis in the US.
Many of the refugees or asylum seekers have been detained since 2013, when Australia sent them to detention centres on PNG''s Manus island and another compound located on the island nation of Nauru as part of the tightening of its immigration policy, which prevents entry by sea.
"In (a) country like Australia, seeking asylum is (a) crime itself (...) since 2013 hundreds of refugees like myself, many other(s), we''ve been sent to indefinite detentions where we spent 6/7 years," Abdul Aziz, a refugee advocate who was once held on Manus island, tweeted on Friday.
Aziz attached a photograph of his former roommate Omar Muhammed Jack, who was sent to Manus at the age of 17, and now at age 24 was one of those travelling to the US.
More than 700 refugees have been sent to the US under an agreement signed in 2016, although there are still 340 people remaining in immigration detention centres sponsored by Australia in the South Pacific.
Of this total, 65 are waiting to be sent to the US, but the situation is "extremely precarious" on Nauru and Manus, said Rintoul.