Changes on Nauru No Guarantee of Safety
6 October 2015 at 11:37 am
Moves to make Australia’s offshore Regional Processing Centre on Nauru an “open facility” will not guarantee the safety of asylum seekers and refugees on the island, according to the Refugee Council of Australia.
The Council said it is not confident that the lives of those inside the detention centre and the 400 recognised refugees living outside the centre will be any safer, citing two new incidents in recent days in which a refugee woman was raped and a refugee man severely bashed.
The Nauru Government has confirmed that the country's Regional Processing Centre that houses asylum seekers will become an “open centre” 24 hours per day, seven days per week from Monday.
The Nauru Department of Justice and Border Control said that this meant that detention had ended, and all asylum seekers were now free to move around the island at their will.
Justice Minister David Adeang said the nation had been working towards this for a long time after already implementing a daytime open centre program, and had been waiting on confirmation of Australia's assistance in the transition.
Adeang said the new arrangements were simply an expansion of the existing open centre program, which has been in effect for 12 hours per day.
The Nauruan Minister revealed that the Australian Government would be supporting Nauru with "safety, security and law enforcement", including providing more Australian police assistance.
The Nauru Government also announced a commitment to process all remaining refugee claims within the next week. Approximately 600 asylum seekers are still to be processed.
A spokesperson for the Refugee Council of Australia, Tim O’Connor, told Pro Bono Australia News that there had not been one conviction from any of the 67 reported cases of rape or child abuse since the centre opened more than two years ago.
He said there was also no indication of where the new refugees would be housed on Nauru after being processed.
“The situation is still far from ideal. The Australian Government which sent them there, has not been able to protect these people,” O’Connor said.
The Refugee Council of Australia supported an open letter to the Federal Government signed by 1,272 individuals and organisations, and led by Australian of the Year Rosie Batty calling “for the end to systemic sexual, physical and psychological torture in our Pacific Black Sites”.
“Those of us who care about violence against women, children and other vulnerable people at home need to care about what happens to these same people elsewhere who are under our care. The Australian Government funds the offshore detention centres on Nauru and Manus Island. The centres are, by their very design, unsafe and dangerous places,” Batty said in the letter.
“These centres cannot be patched up. They must be shut down. The people forcibly held there are those who sought protection in this country. They deserve care, not punishment. Out of sight is not out of mind.”
In March a Federal Parliamentary inquiry into the conditions of the Regional Processing Centre on Nauru recommended that the Australian Government continue to review the operation of the Regional Processing Centre with a view to expanding open centre arrangements.
One of the committee recommendations was, “that the Regional Processing Centre on Nauru move toward becoming a more open, lower security living arrangement for all asylum seekers except where there is a compelling reason for an asylum seeker to be accommodated more securely”.
Minister Immigration and Border Protection, Peter Dutton reaffirmed that the Government was committed to the Regional Processing Arrangements.
“Open centre arrangements have been in place at the RPC since February 2015 and have allowed transferees greater access to the community. The arrangements allowed eligible transferees to leave the centre through a designated exit point, unescorted, during agreed hours on certain days,” Dutton said.
“We have supported the Government of Nauru in making the open centre arrangements possible by funding service providers and sharing Australian expertise with Nauruan law enforcement agencies.
“We also welcome the news that the Nauruan Government has undertaken to finalise the remaining refugee claims that have been under consideration for some time.”