Nauru

World Refugee Day is dedicated each year to raising awareness about the more than 43.7 million refugees and internally displaced people around the world. The United Nations and non-government organisations usually share refugee stories and make pleas for compassion and empathy.

But in Australia, refugees and asylum seekers are treated like the enemy in a war: the target of a highly resourced, military-led “deterrence” strategy complete with arbitrary detainment, detention camps, guards to terrorise them, forced deportations and the violent suppression of those who protest.

The Refugee Action Coalition Sydney released this statement on April 16.

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An outbreak of dengue fever has hit Nauru, raising concerns for the short-term and long-term heath and welfare of asylum seekers being held on the island.

At least three people (staff and detainees) have been confirmed suffering dengue fever. Another 12 cases are presently confirmed in the Nauruan population by a spokesperson for the Nauru general hospital.

As a mother and her baby fight to avoid the “rat-infested” Nauru refugee camp, a Fairfax-Nielsen poll showed half of Australian voters disapprove of the Coalition government's refugee policy. The poll also showed Prime Minister Tony Abbott has come to the end of what has been described as the shortest “honeymoon period” of a PM in history. Abbott's popularity took an unprecedented dive — with a personal approval rating of 1%, believed to be fuelled by his attitude to the “diplomatic stand-off” with Indonesia over substantial spying allegations.

Nauru camp detainees have made allegations of brutal beatings by security guards, as newly leaked documents from the Salvation Army detailed the early “chaos” of the camp.

A protest of recent arrivals that began on June 25 was met with a violent crackdown by guards that reportedly left six Palestinian men unconscious.

The protesters were mostly Palestinian, Sudanese and Lebanese refugees. They had just learned from Australian officials that assessment of their claims for protection would be delayed.

As asylum seekers face years of detention in the Nauru and Manus Island detention camps, where not a single claim has been assessed, the Australian government refuses to answer to scrutiny or calls for human rights oversight.

The ABC’s Four Corners and SBS’s Dateline have now tried to investigate the conditions inside each “regional processing centre”. The camps are believed to be abysmal, inadequate and places of widespread physical and psychological breakdown among detainees.

The smuggling of cameras inside detention camps on Nauru and Manus Island by the ABC's Four Corners has added to pressure on Labor to answer for the shocking conditions in which men, women and children are being held.

Footage that was aired on April 29 showed rows of muddy tents, derelict amenities and ablution facilities and image after image of people who are losing the will to live.

Hunger-striking refugee 35-year-old Omid Sorousheh's desperate plea to be recognised as a refugee in Australia has been treated with contempt by immigration minister Chris Bowen, despite clear indications that he was close to death.

Omid has been on a hunger strike for 50 days on November 30. That day it was reported he had been finally airlifted from Nauru and returned to Australia.

Refugees held in indefinite detention on Nauru shared the following letter on their Facebook page on October 26. They addressed it to human rights commissioners, communities of oppressed people and “world independent news channels”.

It has been published with minimal edits.

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Refugees held in the Nauru detention camp have authored several letters detailing the conditions and despair they are now experiencing in the detention camp, where hunger strikes, self-harm, and disease and ill-health have erupted in just a few weeks.

Three letters are republished below with minimal edits.

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October 22:
Nauru refugee camp today at 10am in charge of all interviews held with representatives.

More than 200 refugees held in a "tent city" on Nauru held a protest on October 14, saying they were horrified with the lack of health care, hygiene and entertainment at the camp.

They said that "no immigration officials, no human rights organization" have arrived to hear their claims for asylum, sparking fear and doubt about how long they will be held on Nauru.

The statement below was released by the Sydney Refugee Action Coalition on October 15.

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