BuzzFeed News understands refugees that do not pass Donald Trump's "extreme vetting" process under the US-Australia refugee swap deal will remain languishing on Manus Island and Nauru.
The deal to take around 1,250 refugees from Australia's controversial Pacific Island detention network has come under intense scrutiny after Trump said he was "extremely, extremely upset" at the terms agreed with Australia by the former Obama administration.
On Thursday, White House spokesperson Sean Spicer made it clear that the terms of the deal mean the United States only has to vet the refugees.
"The deal allows the United States to vet the individuals that are being offered up to be processed," Spicer said.
"Under the conditions that had been set that there’ll be extreme vetting under every single one of those individuals."
What "extreme vetting" is, or how it will be applied to the people who have been deemed to be refugees in Nauru and Papua New Guinea, remains unknown.
However, Trump's recent executive order, which suspended the country's refugee program and temporarily bans travellers from seven Muslim-majority countries including Iran, made it clear that the mostly Iranian refugees in Australia's offshore detention network will not be an easy fit.
Australian government figures from the end of 2016 suggest that more than half the people to be vetted are from Iran. There are also more than 100 others from Iraq and Somalia, another two countries included in Trump's executive order.
A source in the Turnbull government has confirmed to BuzzFeed News that refugees who do not pass Trump's "extreme vetting" process will remain languishing on Nauru and Manus Island.
It's understood the refugees will remain until other country-to-country resettlement deals can be reached like the one between Australia and Cambodia.
Serious questions have been asked about that deal, with tens of millions of dollars being committed to Cambodia with just a single refugee from Nauru being resettled.
Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has argued that resettling in Australia the relatively small number of refugees being held offshore would encourage people smugglers to send boatloads of asylum seekers across the sea.
BuzzFeed News spoke to Iranian refugee Amir, who has spent four years detained on Manus Island, about Trump's reaction to the refugee deal.
"Everyone feels so helpless and hopeless," he said.
Mark Di Stefano is a media and politics correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Mark Di Stefano at email@example.com.
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