Resettlement and healthcare for people detained on Nauru under scrutiny during NZ visit


New Zealand journalists have lifted the Australian Government’s cloak of secrecy over the welfare and future of people detained on Nauru, during a Ministerial delegation to the isolated island this week.

ASRC’s specialist detention casework team is in contact with 63 people held on Nauru, and can confirm AAP’s reports that mental health issues are escalating as people face an uncertain future and lack of adequate medical care. In AAP’s interview with Mohammad Anjum currently held in detention on Nauru, he revealed that “mental conditions are really bad, all of us” and that “no one here knows about their future”.

At a press conference in Nauru on Thursday, and in a rare admission, Nauruan President David Adeang also confirmed that “medical facilities are not as what may be expected by others” on the Island but that if additional care was required, people held in detention could be sent overseas.

ASRC caseworkers can also report that adding to people’s distress and sense of isolation is being denied access to smartphones that allow them to contact family and humanitarian support agencies. ASRC has spoken with people held on Nauru who have been denied access to video call or speak with sick relatives or family members following bereavements.

The Department of Home Affairs has remained notoriously tight-lipped about the future of the 96 people detained on Nauru, and what – if any – third country resettlement options are available once people’s protection claims are processed.

New Zealand’s three-year commitment to resettle 450 people seeking asylum in Australia who are granted refugee status is set to expire in June 2025, yet less than half of the quota has been met so far. The AAP reported that New Zealand’s agreement would not apply to the recent arrivals on Nauru and new Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters was unclear as to whether they would be able to keep “the commitment made by a former government”.

The Australian Government’s unyielding position that people seeking asylum by sea will never settle in Australia has proven to be a massive human rights and policy failure. As well as costing over $12 Billion to operate a cruel offshore regime from July 2012 to June 2024, offshore detention has resulted in 14 deaths, medical neglect, sexual violence, suicide attempts, compensation payouts, abuse and countless other human rights violations.

Quotes attributable to:

Betelhem Tibebu, Human rights activist and refugee previously held on Nauru
“When I was on Nauru we didn’t have access to communication, and it would cause worry and depression because you couldn’t talk to your family. I couldn’t sleep when I was on Nauru, as I was worried about my family and only allowed a 10 minute call every 10 days.

“It makes you sick not being able to speak to your family. I remember most of the people who suicided was because they wanted to hear voices of their Mum and Dad, and even some were apart from their children. I am so sad to hear history is repeating again. This has to change.”

Jana Favero, ASRC’s Head of Systemic Change
“How have we reached a point where we are sending people to Nauru after a decade of evidence of harm and suffering? Our policy of offshore detention is a policy failure – it has come at a devastating human and financial cost. There are many people in the ALP who were happy to call out the lack of transparency and insufficient medical facilities on Nauru and demand answers while they were in opposition, but now they are in Government it’s a different story. The silence and wall of secrecy cannot continue.

“It’s critical there is transparency around what’s happening to people currently detained, the process for medical evacuations and what the Government’s plans are for the nearly one thousand people who sought safety on our shores nearly 11 years ago, were forced to offshore detention and are in limbo due to protracted or non-existent resettlement options. Where is our humanity?”

Heidi Abdel-Raouf, Detention Advocacy Policy Lead
“People we’re speaking with held in Nauru detention have been denied access to smartphones and messaging apps that would allow them to contact their families. It is beyond cruel to deprive people of that right, purely because of the Australian Government’s desire to hide detention conditions and keep people’s welfare a secret. The situation is causing unnecessary distress and exacerbating mental health concerns.

“Due to family separation, inadequate medical and mental health care, and uncertainty about the future, there is already an emerging health crisis on Nauru. The Australian Government must learn from its past mistakes and evacuate people to Australia where they can access the medical care that is their fundamental human right, while their protection applications are processed.”


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