New York Times:

BYRON BAY, Australia — Now we know how desperate Australia is to close the shameful chapter in its history that has seen about 2,000 asylum-seekers and refugees — some now dead, most suffering from depressive disorders — dumped on two remote Pacific islands for four years.

“This is a big deal,” Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull pleads to President Trump, alluding to the agreement under which the United States committed last year to take up to 1,250 of those confined on Manus and Nauru. “It is really, really important to us.”

To which Trump responds: “I think it is a horrible deal, a disgusting deal.” According to a transcript of the January conversation leaked to The Washington Post, Trump suggests it is “going to kill me.” He’ll look like a “dope.” He’s angry with Turnbull: “Putin was a pleasant call. This is ridiculous.”

Ah, yes: those pleasant Putin calls.

A disgusting deal! Some of the marooned migrants are Muslims, you see. They come from places like Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, Syria and Myanmar. No matter how rigorously they are screened, that makes them ipso facto suspect to Trump, whose contested travel ban targets some of these countries. Plus, of course, President Barack Obama (ever the Muslim to many Trump supporters) made the deal.

Australia has reduced the men, women and children on the islands to namelessness, referring to them by registration numbers. Asked their names, kids often give a number. It’s all they know. At least the digits are not tattooed.

A country that long served as a British penal colony, where criminals were banished to the other side of the world, has adopted its own form of “offshore processing’’ in order to crush people, dehumanize them and render them invisible.

The migrants exist in limbo. They were promised a “process”; there has been none. During a weeklong visit to the Papua New Guinea island of Manus late last year, where more than 800 men fester, I found rampant desperation and inertia. These people are pawns of Australia’s decision to use cruelty as deterrent...

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