The Australian government has announced the last asylum-seeker children detained in the Nauru processing center will be resettled in the United States, marking the end of one of the most shameful chapters in Australia's history.
"Every asylum-seeker child has now been removed from Nauru or has had their claim processed,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced in a statement Sunday. “There are now only four asylum-seeker children on Nauru, and they have all been approved for departure to the United States with their families.”
Refugee advocates and everyday Australians have widely welcomed the move. Many have claimed, however, that due credit for the children’s removal should go toward the coalition of lawyers, doctors, and human rights groups behind the 2018 #KidsOffNauru campaign.
[1/2] With the last four children booked to leave for the US, every asylum seeker child will now be off Nauru. pic.twitter.com/yp17a8S1sR— Scott Morrison (@ScottMorrisonMP) February 3, 2019
The campaign saw hundreds of thousands of Australians, alongside the nation’s humanitarian and refugee sector, join together to protest against the government.
Claire Rogers, CEO of World Vision Australia and founder of the #KidsOffNauru movement, said the government's decision was proof that when Australians raise their voices together, change can happen.
"Once ordinary Australians realized that the government was locking up kids in our name, they made it clear they wouldn’t stand for it,” Rogers stated. “If it wasn’t for the extraordinary efforts of refugee advocates and lawyers working day and night to represent these families, I am doubtful the 119 children who were still on the island when #KidsOffNauru launched would have been transferred.”
☑️ #kidsoffNauru thanks to lawyers who took @ScottMorrisonMP's govt kicking and screaming to court - forcing them to medically evacuate most kids. 🚑 @rightsagenda@GeorgeNewhouse@JulianBurnside— kidsoffnauru (@kidsoffnauru) February 2, 2019
❎ Kids given a safe and permanent home - a chance to just be kids #auspolhttps://t.co/nfE6XMHauw
Three-thousand asylum seekers have been detained in offshore Australian detention centers in the Pacific since the Australian government introduced Operation Sovereign Borders in 2013. Australia’s hardline immigration policy bars asylum seekers who try to reach Australia by boat from ever resettling in the country.
Around 1,000 migrants remain indefinitely trapped within the Nauru and Manus Island detention centers. Various reports have long declared there is “compelling evidence” that shows migrants and refugees in detention are “suffering from serious physical and mental health conditions.”
Despite global condemnation, Australia maintains its refugee policy is “one of the most generous humanitarian immigration programs in the world”.
“We have been working quietly and methodically through this process without compromising the integrity of Operation Sovereign Borders,” Morrison further announced in his statement Sunday. “We have secured our borders; we've stopped the boats and the tragic drownings at sea.”
The four children and their families will now join 430 other refugees who have been accepted into the United States as part of a resettlement deal agreed with Washington.