5 Sep 2018

Pacific Islands Forum masking human rights abuse - advocate

2:32 pm on 5 September 2018

Behind the scenes of the Pacific Islands Forum in Nauru human rights abuses are continuing, a refugee advocate says.

A ward at the RON Hospital on Nauru

A ward at the RON Hospital on Nauru Photo: Asylum Seeker Resource Centre

Ian Rintoul from the Refugee Action Coalition said journalists attending the forum needed to look at the bigger picture.

Mr Rintoul said to avoid scutiny, staff working at Australia's refugee detention centres on the island had been told not to speak to the media.

He said despite the Nauru president's denial of a mental health crisis among about 900 refugees on the island, they were still committing acts of self harm.

"There's a woman on Nauru at the moment who's swallowed a razor blade," Mr Rintoul said.

"There have been recomendations from doctors on Nauru and in Australia that she can't be treated on Nauru.

"She needs to be taken off Nauru for that treatment. She was sent home from the RON (Republic of Nauru) hospital last night [and was told] 'come back when you start vomiting blood'."

Nauru's hospital was inadequate and in a poor state compared to facilities prepared for the forum, Mr Rintoul said.

"It's one of the things the Australian government boasts about, how much money has been spent on the RON hospital. But when you look at photos of the hospital compared to facilities built for the forum you will see where the money has gone," he said.

The Nauru Civic Centre.

The Nauru Civic Centre. Photo: Refugee Action Coalition

"It's not just refugees, Nauruan people can't get the treatment they need at the hospital. We've got hundreds of people (refugees) who've had to be sent off Nauru to Australia and other countries for medical treatment they can't get on Nauru."

Meanwhile, the New Zealand government said it would close the "backdoor route" to Australia - should the government there ever take up its offer of resettling 150 refugees from Nauru and Manus Island, in New Zealand.

Foreign Minister Winston Peters met with his Australian counterpart, Marise Payne, on the sidelines of the Pacific Islands Forum yesterday.

Currently New Zealanders can travel freely to, and live in Australia, and the Australian government is concerned this will allow refugees to ultimately settle there.

Mr Peters said he was certain changes could be made in New Zealand to shut that door and ease those concerns.