It’s being reported that US President Donald Trump had a tense conversation in reference to refugees with his Australian counterpart Malcolm Turnbull during their phone call last week. 

The Washington Post reports that Trump had told Turnbull he had spoken to four other world leaders on Saturday, including Russian president Vladimir Putin and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, but theirs “was the worst call by far”.

b’Australia Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull | Source: Reuters’

 So what was the call about and why was it ‘the worst’?

Australia is considered one of the United States’ closest allies — one of the so-called “Five Eyes” with which the US routinely shares sensitive intelligence — and one might have expected the call to be smooth sailing.

As per a deal signed by the Obama administration, Washington agreed to resettle up to 1,250 asylum seekers held in offshore processing camps on Pacific islands in Papua New Guinea and Nauru. In return, Australia would resettle refugees from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

And Trump isn’t really thrilled about honouring this deal.


The call between the two leaders had been scheduled to last an hour but the Post reports that Trump cut it short after 25 minutes when Turnbull tried to turn to other subjects, such as Syria. It also said Trump described the plan as “the worst deal ever” and accused Australia of trying to export the “next Boston bombers.”

“Do you believe it? The Obama Administration agreed to take thousands of illegal immigrants from Australia. Why? I will study this dumb deal,” Trump said on Twitter not long before midnight Washington time.

What does Australian PM Turnbull have to say about this?

Turnbull would not comment on the contents of the call other than to say he believed the resettlement deal remained in place.

“These conversations are conducted candidly, frankly, privately. If you see reports of them, I’m not going to add to them,” he told reporters in Melbourne.


Turnbull also said that Trump had agreed to honor the deal struck with then-President Barack Obama to resettle an unspecified number of the 1,600 people Australia holds in offshore processing centers in Nauru and Papua New Guinea.

(With inputs from Reuters)