This video says about itself:
10 September 2016
Its goal was to discourage asylum seekers from entering the country “illegally” – as the government saw it.
Many refugees – having fled their homes – considered themselves stateless.
Their journeys were arduous and complex. Those from Iran, for instance, would travel first to Malaysia, where they could enter without a visa. Then they’d make their way to southernmost Indonesia, and from there they took boats towards Australia’s closest islands.
The trips typically involved people smugglers and dangerous – sometimes deadly – journeys on boats that were often overloaded and unseaworthy.
Of the boats intercepted at sea by the Australian Border Force, many were forcibly turned back to where they’d come from. But passengers on some – and all those who did make it into Australian waters – were taken into custody, then deported, flown to neighbouring countries.
There, in Nauru and on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island, they are still held in what Australia’s government calls “regional processing centres”.
Nauru is a tiny 29 square kilometre island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
That small independent country – a member of the United Nations – has played a central role in the history of Australia’s refugee policies.
Nauru’s “detention centre” first opened in 2001, under a policy brought in by Australia’s conservative Liberal Party – the so-called “Pacific Solution”.
But this all changed when Kevin Rudd, from the centre-left Labour party, came to power in 2007. Rudd closed Nauru’s centre and most of the refugees were relocated to Australia.
But then as the number of asylum seekers arriving in Australia by boat started going back up, the Labour Party’s government was forced to reconsider. The centre reopened in 2012.
Today, the island’s detention centre is home to almost 500 people, including about 50 children.
Many of them have been there for more than three years.
But what’s going on inside? Both the Nauruan and Papua New Guinean detention centres are run under a veil of secrecy, off-limits to the media and to NGOs like Amnesty International.
People working there are not allowed to talk about what they have seen. Why?
Talk to Al Jazeera sits down with former employees who have decided to break their silence to tell us about the situation inside Australia’s offshore detention centres.
Are they, as the government says, having the desired effect, by discouraging people from making dangerous journeys? But are they also, as the people we spoke to say, dehumanising and dangerous?
We spoke to Evan Davis, a teacher who used to work with children living in the Australian-run camp in Nauru. Despite secrecy provisions limiting the ability of staff to talk, he decided to share his experience.
“It struck me straight away that the place was more like a military camp, a prison, more than anything else, that was efficiently run,” he says. The children were referred to by personnel as numbers, not names, and Davis said the teachers endeavoured to make a point of learning the children’s names.
Judith Reem used to teach secondary school children on Nauru. She, herself, comes from a family of Bosnian refugees to Australia, which is one of the reasons she decided to speak out publicly. The tents where people lived, she says, were not designed for habitation, and cultural considerations, such as spaces for people to pray, were not taken into account.
Judith Reem feels particularly bad about having prepared the children for a life in Australia which was never going to happen.
“I feel, that in retrospect, I was a part of the lie, because I was teaching them conversational English for life in Australia and that just hasn’t happened,” she says. The conditions were worse than in a prison, Reem says.
“Some of the children in the camp can’t remember life before the camp because they were so little when they arrived,” she says.
“The cloak of secrecy around it [the camps] is what allows us this plausible deniability, which is hopefully a luxury I can take away.”
Jennifer Rose, a former elementary school teacher in Nauru, believes Australia needs to take a different approach when it comes to dealing with asylum seekers.
“How could you not be affected by seeing children retraumatised by a system that Australia has set up?” Rose asks.
From daily The Morning Star in Britain:
Monday 17th October 2016
The 64-page Island of Despair report accuses the Canberra government of subjecting refugees and asylum-seekers to a cruel regime of abuse, flouting international law, in conditions which amount to torture.
It highlights cases of asylum-seekers self-harming or trying to take their own lives.
The Nauruan authorities have even arrested asylum-seekers and refugees for self-harm, the report records, leading to their imprisonment in a “prison within a prison.”
Amnesty senior director of research Anna Neistat, who managed to visit the remote island to investigate rights abuses, said: “On Nauru, the Australian government runs an open-air prison designed to inflict as much suffering as necessary to stop some of the world’s most vulnerable people from trying to find safety in Australia.
“The government of Australia has isolated vulnerable women, men and children in a remote place which they cannot leave, with the specific intention that these people should suffer.
“And suffer they have. It has been devastating and, in some cases, irreparable.
“It’s a vicious trap. People in anguish attempt to end their own lives to escape it but then find themselves behind bars, hurled into a prison within a prison.
“The Australian government’s policy is the exact opposite of what countries should be pursuing. It is a model that minimises protection and maximises harm.”
Australia has spent billions of pounds to create and maintain its inherently abusive offshore processing system.
According to the Australian National Audit Office, offshore processing on Nauru and Manus Island in Papua New Guinea has cost more than £350,000 annually per person.
Much of this money has been spent on companies contracted to work on Nauru, many of which have said that they will cease operations on the island.
Individual staff from some companies have become whistleblowers, even under the threat of criminal prosecution for exposing the desperate situation on Nauru.
Allowing people’s mental health to deteriorate without adequate treatment appears to be a deliberate part of the Australian government’s deterrence policy, Amnesty researchers found.
Doctors, medical staff and supporters rallied last weekend in Sydney, Melbourne, Hobart, Cairns, Darwin and Newcastle in opposition to the Australian government’s brutal treatment of refugees. An estimated 5,000 protested in Sydney, up to 3,000 in Melbourne and hundreds in other cities. Demonstrations were held the previous weekend in Brisbane and Canberra: here.
Legislation to impose a lifetime ban on any refugees even visiting Australia passed the House of Representatives, parliament’s lower house, last Thursday. The Liberal-National government remains determined to get the bill through the Senate despite widespread public opposition to its blatant violation of international law: here.