15 Jul 2013

Protests and self-harm continue at Nauru asylum seeker camp

7:19 pm on 15 July 2013

Nightly protests are continuing at the Australian-run asylum seeker detention camp on Nauru, as recent arrivals to the detention centre have been told it will take at least six months before they will have their first interview with Australian officials.

A spokesperson for the Australian based Refugee Action Coalition, Ian Rintoul, says 100 asylum seekers on Nauru are now holding protests and resorting to self harm over ongoing delays to processing refugee claims.

He told Sara Vui-Talitu that with over 500 asylum seekers there now, those detention facilities are insufficient and unstable and many detainees are battling significant mental problems and poor health.

IAN RINTOUL: The protests in Nauru at the moment are mostly happening from the most recent arrivals. So the last few days we've had around 100 Palestinians, Iranians, Iraqis, who have been protesting at the delays in their processing. They've been told that they'll be waiting at least six months before they'll have the first interviews. And many people who have been on the island since it first opened last year were expecting to have results by now, and are told that their interviews are finished. There's no sign of them actually getting to the results of those refugee determination interviews.

SARA VUI-TALITU: So tell us, what is the hold-up, do you think? Why are promises seemingly being reneged on, the time frame?

IR: Well, I think the fact is they're completely under-resourced and they're pressured by the Australian government. The Australian government is telling people that, regardless of whether they're found to be refugees or not, that they could be on Nauru for up to five years. So they've got no real interest in processing quickly. Once people are found to be refugees, the question they will have is, 'OK, we're found to be refugees. What happens now? Why aren't we being resettled?' The Nauru government hasn't got an answer to that. The Australian government doesn't intend to have an answer to that for up to five years. So I think you're really seeing the bureaucracy acting under instruction from the Australian government to drag things out as long as they possibly can.

SVT: There are reports of detoriating conditions in the camp, so what do you know about the situation on the ground?

IR: Well, since the completion of the buildings, there has been a little bit of extra capacity, so there's been an increase in the numbers of peoples who are on Nauru, but there's been no increase, so no extension of the facilities. So you've got around 500 people now on Nauru in the buildings, but there's been no improvement in the medical facilities and no improvement in the kitchen facilities. So people are waiting up to an hour to have their lunch. You've got the same difficulties of actually getting an appointment even to see someone in the medical centre. And as those conditions deteriorate and the length of time deteriorates, people are being sent off Nauru to Australia because they can't get the medical attention they need. We have another incident of an Iranian man attempt suicide by hanging in the Nauru hospital. I think it's only a matter of time before he's transferred to Australia. And, more generally, there's a very persistent concern about the skin infection which seems to be a bit of an epidemic at the detention centre. And people are getting fungal infections very quickly after arriving. I understand it seems to be spreading. They're very concerned that they're being dumped on Nauru and watching their physical health deteriorate as well as their mental health.