Nauru refugees protest 1000 days in detention

April 1, 2016

Asylum seekers on Nauru have been protesting their long-term detention every day since March 20. Good Friday marked 1000 days in detention with no refugee determination for some asylum seekers.

The Nauru detention centre, supposedly is an open camp where asylum seekers are not technically imprisoned and are able to come and go as they please, but it seems it is not all that open. After the first week of protests, Broadspectrum erected a fence across the main detention road to prevent protesters reaching, and blocking, the main gate to the Nauru camp.

Despite the fence, every day at 5pm women, men and children march to the fence chanting: "Save us from this hell," and "Three years in detention, shame on you; shame on you” and brandishing hand-painted signs calling for faster processing of their refugee applications.

Refugee Action Coalition spokesperson Ian Rintoul said: "They're protesting long term detention without processing, as well as the general situation on Nauru. So far the protests have been peaceful, occupying the gate. They're chanting about freedom and justice. They usually go for a few hours a day.

"Despite promises made at the end of last year, that everybody would be processed soon, that just hasn't been fulfilled. The fact people can be 1000 days on Nauru and not have a refugee determination, exposes the very stark realities of the lack of processing and lack of any resettlement arrangements."

Rintoul said asylum seekers, refugees and others on the island who have photographed or filmed the protests have been threatened with arrest by local authorities and staff at the centre.

Asylum seekers who are still awaiting a determination have significantly fewer freedoms than those deemed to be "genuine" refugees, who are permitted to travel, live and work among the wider Nauruan community

Rintoul said: "They aren't allowed to bring things in, they don't have money. Even under the open centre, they're effectively confined to [the camp]. They can't work, they can't move freely. A lot of restrictions remain. The people protesting are the asylum seekers, not the ones deemed to be refugees."

Signs at the protest claim 144 asylum seekers remain in detention, but the Australian government refuses to confirm exact numbers of asylum seekers, saying it is a matter for the Nauruan government.

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