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The Gaucho Gazette

Neglect, Abuse, and Refugees

Karina King

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For three years, 1,200 men, women, and children were held on the island of Nauru where they experienced neglect, abuse, denial of health services, and a prolonged amount of detainment in inhumane conditions. Nauru is a small, poverty-stricken island off the northeast coast of Australia with a population of 10,000. Australia began relocating refugees there in 2012. Workers were hired to provide services, but the people have been abused and neglected; the Australian government used them as an example in hopes of deterring other asylum seekers from traveling to Australia by boat.

   In July 2016, both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch researchers were allowed onto Nauru for 12 days. During that time they interviewed 84 refugees, including asylum seekers from Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Kuwait, Afghanistan and Kurds who had no home country. After interviewing 29 women, five girls, and four boys, as well as several service providing employees, they learned directly about the conditions.

   Refugees originally transported to the island began their detention in a vinyl tent, cramped and enduring temperatures that reached up to 122ºF, as well as flooding from relentless rains. This detention facility, named the “Regional Processing Centre,” or RPC, is run by a private company that the Australian government hired. Refugees told the researchers that their lives in the detention center were not unlike prison, with searches conducted by guards for prohibited items, which included sewing needles and food. They were only allowed two-minute showers and provided unsanitary restrooms. The interviewees said that while they spent one to two years in the camps, about one third of the total 1,200 refugee population remains in the camps now (Human Rights Watch). After learning about the abuse that has gone on, juniors Manas Varma and Priscilla Navas weighed in.

   “It’s not really right, because moving from one bad situation to another wasn’t their goal. They don’t belong anywhere as it is, and for the government to force them into camps, it’s just not right,” said Varma.

   Navas agreed.

   “These people were fleeing for a reason; they’re fleeing for freedom, better situations, better conditions and now they’re in worse situatiowns,” said Navas.

   In October 2015, with pending litigation in Australia over the refugee’s treatment, they were given more individual freedoms to move about the island. However, those still confined to living in the camps are not allowed to have smartphones, guards still monitor their lives, and other personal liberty rights are infringed upon.

   Both the governments of Australia and Nauru kept the practice in high secrecy and denied journalists and researchers requests.  Since January 2014, only two media outlets have gained legal visas to travel to Nauru, and that led to no coverage. Facebook has been banned on the entire island, and those who share information about the conditions are penalized and prosecuted in court.

   “There is a lot more [media] coverage for other regions [right] now, and I think there should be more coverage for other regions as well. They were obviously trying to cover it up, which shows they knew they are doing something wrong,” said Naas.

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The student news site of Casa Grande High School
Neglect, Abuse, and Refugees