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First refugees leave Australian offshore detention centre

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A file photos shows an overview of Port Moresby. Wiki Commons CC BY-SA

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Refugees have left one of Australia’s offshore detention centres yesterday for the United States, an asylum seeker and a refugee advocate said, as part of a swap brokered by Barack Obama.

Refugee Action Coalition’s Ian Rintoul said he had spoken with some of the group by phone and that 22 men were in Port Moresby last night. Mr Rintoul said the group had been told they would be flown to the US via the Philippines on Wednesday. “They’re happy they’re going, and they never want to hear about Australia again,” he said.

Kurdish-Iranian journalist Behrouz Boochani, who has been held at the Manus Island detention centre in Papua New Guinea, said in a Facebook post that “about 25 men” had left the centre around 8am local time.

The move comes days after Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull gave the first official timetable for when the 1,250 people in the centres on Manus Island and Nauru would be resettled in the US.

Mr Turnbull said Australia would begin resettling several dozen Central American refugees within weeks under the deal that US President Donald Trump described as “dumb” but has said Washington will honour. “There will be about 25 from both Manus and Nauru [that] will be going to the United States and I just want to thank again President Trump for continuing with that arrangement,” Mr Turnbull said.

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