Tag Archives: Nauru detention center

Pacific Islands and their Big Brothers: from decarbonization to detention centers

naurau dentention center for asylum seekers. image from wikipedia

Australia and New Zealand have never found it easy to corral Pacific-island leaders into supporting their initiatives. It is getting harder….[The Pacific Island Forum (PIF) was held in September 2015].  It was attended by both Australia’s prime minister, Tony Abbott, and New Zealand’s, John Key. They were probably relieved not to be joined by Frank Bainimarama, the former military commander who led a coup in Fiji in 2006. Fiji was suspended from the forum in 2009, but readmitted after Mr Bainimarama won a general elections in 2014. Some of his officials attended, but he himself is boycotting PIF meetings until the forum is reformed—and Australia and New Zealand are expelled. Other Pacific nations are less strident. But they too want to reshape the PIF’s agenda, particularly on climate change.

Mr Bainimarama has launched a rival group, the Pacific Island Development Forum, which held its third annual meeting in Fiji from September 2nd to 4th, 2015. The resultant communiqué endorsed the goal of keeping global average temperatures no more than 1.5˚Celsius above pre-industrial levels (the existing goal agreed among developed countries is 2˚). It is part of a strategy of “deep decarbonisation” that Mr Bainimarama hopes to take to the UN’s climate-change conference to be held in Paris in December. Tony De Brum, the Marshall Islands’ foreign minister, says Australia’s proposed 26-28% cut in emissions from 2005 levels is far too low to stop the atoll states from disappearing beneath the waves. He wants much bolder targets. Anote Tong, president of Kiribati, said that island leaders might ask Australia to leave the PIF; or they might stage a walkout if it refuses to sign up to the 1.5˚ target.

Australia’s moral authority in the region has been dented. It has cut its foreign-aid budget and disbanded its specialised aid agency, AusAID, with greater aid emphasis now on Australia’s commercial interests. And the shunting of Australia’s unwanted refugees to “Offshore Processing Centres” on Nauru and in PNG has looked mean-minded, despite sweeteners such as refurbished hospitals, roads and local jobs for the host countries.

On tiny Nauru, with a population of only 10,000, the refugee centres have supplanted phosphates as the biggest source of earnings. Electoral self-interest means no politician dares oppose the centres. Nauru’s politics are troubled. An authoritarian government, led by Baron Waqa, has removed most opposition MPs from parliament. One MP, Roland Kun, has had his passport seized and been prevented from rejoining his family in New Zealand. The Australian government has refrained from criticising its island ally. But, in a rare Pacific-policy split with Australia, New Zealand suspended its aid to Nauru’s judicial sector in early September 2015.

Unlike Nauru, Papua New Guinea, which, with 7.2m people is the largest Pacific Island state, has other sources of foreign exchange, including a $19 billion ExxonMobil liquefied-natural-gas project. But PNG’s politicians are more likely to turn on the unpopular detention centre on Manus island. Relations with Australia are often frosty. In July 2015 the prime minister, Peter O’Neill, announced a ban on foreign (mostly Australian) consultants. Then PNG stopped Australian vegetable imports.

New donors, such as Indonesia and, most noticeably, China, are offering money to the island states. So island leaders have greater leeway to pursue independent foreign policies.

Excerpts from The Pacific Islands Forum: Australasia feels the heat, Economist, Sept. 12, 2015, at 39.

Why Australia has Detention Centers in Nauru

australia and nauru

The detention centre on the South Pacific island nation of Nauru was based on a Statement of Principles, signed on September 10, 2001 by the President of Nauru  and Australia’s -Minister for Defence.. The statement opened the way to establish a detention centre for up to 800 people and was accompanied by a pledge of $20 million for development activities.

The purpose of the centre is to process asylum seekers and refugees arriving by boat in Australia. In November 2012, an Amnesty International team visited the camp and described it as “a human rights catastrophe … a toxic mix of uncertainty, unlawful detention and inhumane conditions.  In July 2012 the detention centre was holding 545 asylum seekers. On 19 July 2013 there was a major riot in the detention centre. Several buildings were destroyed by fire. Damage was estimated at A$60 million.The riot began at 3pm when the detainees staged a protest. Up to 200 detainees escaped and about 60 were held overnight at the islands police station.

The Department of Immigration and Citizenship (Diac) confirmed that the remaining asylum seekers on the island, around 400, had been transferred to a second processing centre on the island, a flat “black soil site” with no permanent accommodation.

Excerpts from

Oliver Laughland, Anonymous claims responsibility for attack on Nauruan government website, Guardian, July, 21, 2013 and Wikipedia: Nauru