More questions than answers, Nauru transfers remain cloaked in secrecy

MEDIA RELEASE: The Albanese Government continues to operate Nauru Detention Centre under a cloak of secrecy by providing no public information about the welfare of 39 people seeking asylum who were forced there after arriving in Western Australia over a week ago.

The ASRC is deeply concerned by the lack of transparency surrounding the treatment of the recent transfers in light of a decade of reported human rights abuses suffered by people and children held on Nauru, including violent assaults, rape, child abuse, and medical neglect. Given the known deterioration of people’s mental and physical health every day they are held offshore, the ASRC is calling on the Government to be immediately forthcoming about people’s welfare and the consideration of their protection claims.

The new group of arrivals joined approximately 15 people already held on Nauru, and follows eight other people – including a child – who ‘voluntarily’ returned to their country from the detention centre late last year, according to information revealed through Senate Estimates in October 2023.

The Albanese Government has refused to front up about what processes were followed prior to the group of eight returning to their home countries and whether appropriate legal and medical support has been provided. The ASRC urges the Government to inform the public  about whether robust assessments of refugee status claims are occurring and if “government-funded resettlement humanitarian packages” are being offered to people if they return home – as reported by The Australian last week.

Sending people back to countries where their freedom or lives are threatened goes against the Refugees Convention, which the Australian government is a proud signatory of, and their obligations under other international covenants and conventions to not return people to countries where their human rights may be violated. These include obligations under Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the Convention Against Torture (CAT).

Jana Favero, ASRC Director of Systemic Change
“For the past decade, the operations of offshore processing have been shrouded in secrecy. While there has been a lack of visibility, billions of dollars have been wasted, people have lost their lives, there have been compensation payouts and taxpayers money has gone to shonky operators.

“It appears this secrecy is set to continue with no public information about the fate of 39 people transferred to Nauru in the past week, let alone with the 15 who have been there for months.

“Nothing good comes from secrecy and this Government has the opportunity to end the shameful legacy of corruption and cruelty that has seen thousands of men, women and children suffer on Nauru. It’s critical that the people being held on Nauru have their refugee claims assessed thoroughly and with the appropriate legal support.”

Betelhem Tibebu, human rights activist and refugee previously held on Nauru
“I was so scared when I first arrived in Nauru. I felt lost and like I’d be sent to prison, even though I never committed any crime. And now, they are punishing asylum seekers again.

“My heart broke when I saw the recent asylum seekers arriving in Nauru. I put myself in their shoes and remember all my bad memories of being there again.”

Ian Rintoul, Refugee Action Coalition
“Over the last twelve years, hundreds of refugees were brought to Australia from Nauru because of abuse and medical neglect they suffered in offshore detention.

“Now they are spending $420 million to repeat the exercise just to keep offshore detention operating on Nauru until 2025.

“Refugees who arrive by plane can apply for protection and live in the community while their claims are assessed; the same should apply to those who arrive by boat. It is time to close Nauru and put an end to offshore detention for good.”


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