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Refugee intake broadens


Last week we saw our Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in New York giving his first speech to the United Nations General Assembly and attending two special summits on refugees.

One was an invite-only affair from President Barack Obama himself.

Turnbull came away having agreed to a new commitment, which sees Australia’s increase in the regular humanitarian intake from 13,750 to 18,750 effectively made permanent.

Of interest was this will now include a large number of Central American refugees.

Who? And why?

Well, it took a little digging but it seems Malcolm Turnbull has agreed to accept Central American refugees from camps … in Costa Rica.

This odd arrangement has seen speculation mount that the United States might resettle the asylum seekers housed in detention camps in Papua New Guinea and Nauru.

The very refugees Australia is adamant will never set foot on Australian soil.

The new agreement does not include the African migrants currently held in Costa Rica, caught on their way north to the United States.

Our new citizens will be the people of the violence-plagued “northern triangle” countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

Their countries were rocked by bloody civil wars in the 1980s which has left a legacy of violence and fragile institutions.

El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras consistently rank among the most violent countries in the world. Gang-related violence in El Salvador brought its homicide rate to ninety per hundred thousand in 2015, making it the worlds most violent country not at war.

All three countries have significantly higher homicide rates than neighbouring Costa Rica.

Costa Rica knows all too well about refugees, with more than 100 illegal migrants entering the small Central American country every day.

They are looking for “coyotes”, the Central American version of ‘people smugglers’, to take them across the Nicaraguan border and on to the United States, so said the Costa Rican President, Luis Solis.

Eighty-five per cent of the new arrivals are from Haiti by way of Brazil.

The Haitians are still looking for new settlements after Haiti’s devastating 2010 earthquake.

Many took cheap construction jobs in Brazil ahead of the Olympics but now need to disappear with the Games over and the country wallowing in recession.

The president told reporters, “Migration is a global phenomenon and it is not new. But something unexpected is happening, a refurbished flow of migrants is on the move in Latin America,” Solis said.

The United States has revealed plans to end the special protections given the Haitian people dating back to the earthquake.

“What if they start deciding to stay on in Costa Rica after hearing that the United States has changed its tolerance policy and is going to start deporting them?” Solis said. “That’s a concern.”

More than 5000 Haitians had entered the United States without visas this fiscal year through October 1, according to officials, up from 339 in fiscal year 2015.

Curiosity sated, we now know why Australia’s intake will now include a component of people from the Central American region.