Hospital fire spells disaster for Nauru, refugees

A fire ripped through Nauru's main hospital on August 14, destroying the pharmacy, medical stores and x-ray facilities.

Joanna Olsson from the Nauru government's information office told the ABC that the fire ruined a quarter of the building and could entail a “medical emergency” for Nauru.

The cause was believed to be electrical. Like many services on the island, Nauru's hospital is rundown and relies on Australian aid for maintenance and repair.

The Refugee Action Coalition released the statement below on August 15, calling for all refugees held on the island to be urgently returned to Australia.

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All Nauru asylum seekers should be moved to Australia, said the Refugee Action Coalition.

“The fire at the Nauru hospital is the last straw,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.

“The unsanitary conditions of the tent city camp have already created a humanitarian crisis among the asylum seekers. Over 100 asylum seekers have been struck down with an epidemic of gastroenteritis that has made conditions in the camp unbearable.

“There are only six portable toilets for over 400 asylum seekers. And there is no running water for washing. Up to 17 asylum seekers are living in one tent. The camp conditions are shocking. It is now urgent for asylum seekers to be brought to Australia before the emergency situation deteriorates any further.

“There have never been adequate facilities to care for the asylum seekers or the Nauruan people. Asylum seekers are routinely medivaced to Australia, because the facilities on the island cannot cope. Australia should be assisting Nauru to improve the medical facilities there, not wasting millions expanding detention centres.

“It is now also certain that there are recognised refugees being kept in the Nauruan hell-hole, but the government has done nothing to ensure they are released.

“The failure of lawyers to show up was one of the things that triggered the riot at the detention centre on July 1 [that caused damage to much of the detention camp].

“The government has been twiddling its thumbs while Nauru burns. The asylum seekers on Nauru were sent before the PNG solution and were never going to be resettled on the island. There are being kept in inhumane conditions held hostages to Labor’s election campaign.”

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