Julie Bishop
Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop speaks to Australia's Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull while they attend the United Nations General Assembly in the Manhattan borough of New York, US, September 21, 2016. Reuters/Eduardo Munoz

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has said she would not describe the US refugee resettlement deal as a “people swap.” This comes amid reports that Australia would not admit refugees from Costa Rica until America welcomes refugees from Nauru and Manus Island.

Last year, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced that Australia would admit refugees in Costa Rica. Immigration Minister Peter Dutton countered this, saying the resettlement of refugees currently in Costa Rica would not occur until the US promised to take refugees from Nauru and Manus Island.

"We wouldn't take anyone until we had assurances that people were going to go off Nauru and Manus," he said, via Sky News. "It wasn't a people-swap deal, if that's the language people want to use. I don't have any problem with that characterisation."

Dutton emphasised that arriving at an outcome concerning refugees in Nauru and Manus Island is “the most important thing.” He further spoke about accepting people from Malaysia. “Not one person went from Australia, so we’re not going to be sucked into that sort of a silly outcome,” he said.

In 2011, the decision to send asylum seekers to Malaysia was ruled invalid by the High Court. Malaysia was not a party to the Refugees Convention. As a result, the court said the country did not have the required laws to ascertain people’s safety. However, as part of the agreement, Australia admitted 4,000 refugees from Malaysia.

Dutton’s comments come as Bishop meets US Vice President Mike Pence and in the wake of the controversial phone call between Turnbull and US President Donald Trump. Bishop said Australia and the US were working to vet the refugees.

The announcement of the Costa Rica resettlement deal came in September last year, prior to Trump being elected president. The idea of the two deals being a people swap has been disregarded previously by the Australian Government.

"There is no basis at all for this allegation of [a] people swap," Special Minister of State Scott Ryan said last year. "There will not be a people swap."

A spokeswoman for Dutton said earlier this month that refugees in Costa Rica seeking resettlement had yet to be referred to Australia. “It (is) expected that Australia will be referred a small number of people for resettlement and they will be resettled within the existing Humanitarian Program,” Dutton said, as reported by News Corp.