Australia takes border security seriously, very seriously which while admirable on the one hand is a bit hard to stomach when you look around and realise that the country is just under 99% immigrant thanks to boat people. Sure, you could say the same about my country of birth – England- but in Australia’s case this change from 100-1% Aboriginal took less than 250 years to achieve. Not something you want to shout about really is it. So, with that on mind I turn to look at Nauru.
Nauru is an independent and once beautiful little island in Oceania, around 4000Km from Sydney. Once rich off the back of its phosphorous mining exploits (thanks to bird poo) the country is now suffering. The mines dried up in the 1980’s ripping out the Island’s heart and taking many peoples hopes and dreams with it. So when the Howard government here in Australia proposed that the country be part of their ‘Pacific Solution’ enabling Australia to set up and run an off-shore facility for processing immigrants there was no choice really but to take up the offer.
The Nauru detention centre opened in 2001, closed in 2008 and re-opened in 2012 and has been the focus of much negative media attention and human suffering throughout with hunger strikes and alleged rape, child abuse, mis-treatment by guards and more recently attacks by locals on asylum seekers being voiced daily.
This all sounds dreadful, inhumane and totally at odds with our countries human rights obligations. Like many, I am hungry for more information, for more detail about the how’s, where’s and when’s of it all. About what is really going on. But, like the rest of us outside of Nauru getting first hand information is not easy.
- Journalist visas were increased from just under $200 to over $8000 in 2013
- BY 2015 all request for media access were denied to all but one Journalist – a journalist that just happened to support the governments immigration policy. Probably just a co-incidence.
So all we have access to are snippets of footage that has been smuggled off the Island.
It is not insignificant to note the dynamics at play here. Australia runs this immigration centre, it is part of the Australian governments border security plan and yet all visa applications, access and ‘stuff-that-might-get-messy’ is handled by Nauru’s rulers. Makes it easier to keep the dream of ‘Advancing Australia Fair’ alive….
And then there’s the threat of jail that faces those who have or do work at the centre or on the island and who speak out about what they have witnessed. I listened to a teacher talk on the radio yesterday, flouting this rule and risking jail because he ‘just couldn’t live with himself’ if he didn’t speak out.
How can this happen? How can we, the people of Australia be OK with this?
I am appalled at this situation. I have seen and heard enough to feel that what is happening on Nauru is toxic. Toxic enough to want to prevent us, the public from seeing it for our own eyes via legitimate media access.
I accept that border protection is a must, that people smugglers are the scum of the earth and that their trade must be stopped but NOTHING excuses what appears to be going on here. NOTHING.
So government, isn’t it time you stopped hiding behind the Nauru government and started telling us what is happening on Nauru. Why it’s taking so long to process these people- people who you promised would be processed by the end of October last year? Why aren’t journalists allowed in? Why are the children who have come to Australia for medical aid so scared and traumatised by the thought of going back?
Why Australia, Why?