5 Mar 2015

Nauru police confirm 183 refugees arrested

2:41 pm on 5 March 2015

The Nauru government now says 183 refugees have been arrested and are being held at the country's correctional centre after protests on Wednesday.

Refugees protesting in Nauru

Refugees protesting in Nauru Photo: AFP

Last night, the government announced that no more than 40 were in custody, claiming Australian-based refugee advocates, who put the figure at 150, were wrong.

The government says refugees in Nauru will not be treated differently from locals, and they will be arrested when they break the law.

However earlier this week police issued a notice to the refugees saying groups of three or more which did not disperse within 15 minutes of being ordered to do, could be jailed for up to three years.

The Justice Minister David Adeang says the refugee advocacy groups are sensationalising events and coaching refugees to use social media to generate support.

Mr Adeang has dismissed suggestions that police have been harassing refugees during lawful protests as simply wrong.

He says a minority is trying to take the police force to the brink in a quest to influence Australia.

Ian Rintoul of the Refugee Action Coalition says he also expects protests to continue.

"I spoke to people who hadn't been arrested and while they're dismayed at what the government has done they're also very angry. They've had their democratic rights, their right to protest and given the places where they've come from they think that the Nauruan government has acted not like a democracy but like a dictatorship."

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