Australia using Nauru as ‘open-air prison’

Australia is using the island of Nauru as an "open-air prison," putting refugees and asylum seekers through an abusive processing system as a means to prevent immigration, according to a report (PDF) released by Amnesty International Oct. 17. The report charges that Australia has ignored the 1951 Refugee Convention (PDF) by subjecting asylum seekers and refugees to "egregious abuses," essentially trapping them on the remote island. The report includes dozens of interviews with refugees, documenting claims of mental health issues, suicide attempts and attacks at the hands of Nauru citizens. It describes inadequate and often "deeply humiliating and traumatizing" medical treatment, and abuses carried out against children, including physical abuse from staff contracted by Australia, and the denial of their right to education. The report calls upon the Australian government to ensure the safety and well-being of refugees, and increase access to existing migration programs.

From Jurist, Oct. 17. Used with permission.

Note: In August, Australia agreed to close its Manus Island detention facility following a court ruling by Papua New Guinea.

  1. Australia agrees to settlement in Manus Island suit

    Australia's Minister of Immigration and Border Protection on June 14 announced  a $90 million settlement in the Manus Island class action lawsuit. The settlement includes $70 million (USD $52.75 million) to be paid to the plaintiffs and $20 million in legal costs. Australia still refutes the claims in the lawsuit and states that the settlement is not an admission of guilt. Instead, it states that the settlement is required under Australia's Legal Services Directions, which instructs to "endeavour to avoid, prevent or limit the scope of legal proceedings." The settlement must still be approved by the Supreme Court of Victoria.The class action suit involved more than 1,900 detainees at Australia's offshore asylum seeker detention center. The refugees were at the center between 2012 and 2016. As of April of this year, 821 people are still being detained on Manus Island. It is believed that this settlement opens the possibility for more class action lawsuits, including from asylum seekers being held on Nauru. (Jurist)

  2. Refugees at issue as Nauru ends ties with Australia high court

    Nauru announced April 2 it is cutting ties with the High Court of Australia and establishing its own Court of Appeals. On its Twitter page, the Republic of Nauru said[Twitter]:

    As a sovereign nation with a democratically (re)elected government, we will make decisions based on what is best for our people, not what ill-informed, racist, elitist, colonial-minded Australian lawyers, journalists & activists try & demand. … We will not accept attempted interference in our domestic affairs.

    This is not the first time Nauru made such a statement. Last month the Nauru government released a press release also stating their intent to break with the Australian court. The Nauru government has heralded the separation as "another step to nation's maturity" which will give Nauruan citizens "easier access to justice."

    However, rights groups are concerned about the effect the separation will have on those seeking asylum in Australia, hundreds of which are detained in Nauru. The asylum seekers might lose the right they previously had to appeal to Australia's High Court.

    In November 2016 the US and Australia agreed on the resettlement of refugees detained on Nauru and Manus Island. (President Trump, however, last August threatened to renege on the deal.) (Jurist)

    1. Orwell in Nauru?

      OK, this takes the fucking cake. The Republic of Nauru invoking "anti-racist" and "anti-colonialist" rhetoric to deny refugees held at detainment camp that Australia maintains on the island access to the Australian courts! In other words, complicity in Australia's racist and xenophobic policy of indefinite detainment. #OrwellWouldShit