That Australia refugee swap Trump freaked about is finally happening

Donald Trump slammed it as “stupid” and said it would “kill” him politically. He even reportedly got heated about it during his first call as president with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. Nevertheless, a refugee swap deal struck between the U.S. and Australia under the Obama administration forged ahead this week.

Twenty-two men have departed Australia’s notorious offshore detention center on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea and are en route to the U.S., where they will be resettled.


“They have been approved for travel to the U.S. under the same stringent vetting process that applies to all refugees,” U.S. embassy representative Beverly Thacker told Australia’s ABC News.

According to refugee advocates, another 27 women and children will depart Australia’s other detention center on the island nation of Nauru Wednesday.

Read more: 63 billion reasons why Trump is wrong about refugees

These refugees are the first of approximately 2,000 who could be resettled in states across the U.S. under the deal.

The deal, negotiated under the Obama Administration, sparked tensions between Trump and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull during their fiery first phone call in January.

“I do not know how you got [the Democrats] to sign a deal like this,” Trump told Turnbull during their brief conversation, “but that is how they lost the election… because of stupid deals like this.”

Days after the call, Trump lambasted his predecessor for agreeing to the swap, and vowed to “study the dumb deal.”

Australia’s immigration laws are among the world’s strictest, banning any asylum seeker who arrives by boat from ever being resettled in the country. Beyond the U.S. deal, Turnbull’s government has also tried offering refugees up to $25,000 to return home — including Rohingya fleeing persecution in Myanmar.

Read more: Trump has already harmed refugees regardless of Supreme Court ruling

Maddison Connaughton is an editor for Vice Australia.