Nauru refugee camp ‘appalling,’ says rights group


Australian artist Mireille Astore who fled Beirut during the 1975 war and arrived in Australia as a migrant stands in a barbed wire cage to draw attention to Australia's mandatory detention policy on Dec. 13, 2003.


David Hancock

Living conditions in the Australian refugee camp on the Pacific island of Nauru are "appalling," and "unacceptable," says Amnesty International.

The rights group spent three days on the tiny island nation, speaking to many of the 387 asylum seekers.

“The situation on Nauru is unacceptable," said Amnesty's refugee expert Dr. Graham Thom. "The unlawful and arbitrary detention of these men in such destitute conditions is cruel, inhuman and degrading."

In the report, titled, "Nauru Camp: A Human Rights Catastrophe With No End In Sight," Dr. Thom added, “The climate of uncertainty was debilitating with no information being provided to asylum seekers and clear evidence that this temporary holding facility has been erected in haste, with no consideration for the individuals languishing in such squalid conditions." 

Australian Immigration Minister Chris Bowen responded to the criticism on the Australian website, TheAge:

"Conditions on Nauru at times may not be pleasant but they are the same conditions immigration staff and service providers are working under," Bowen said.

After being denied entry to the camp, national affairs editor of TheAge, Michael Gordon, visited refugees anyway. In his article he writes:

"As soon as they saw us, scores of asylum seekers gathered at the perimeter fence, raised their arms as if manacled, and began chanting lines including ''We want freedom', 'Don't make us crazy', 'We want justice' and 'Don't kill refugees.'"

According to CNN, the detention center is overwhelmed and unable to adequately accommodate the number of refugees it receives.

Amnesty recommends, “For those already on Nauru, processing must start immediately." Sometimes it takes months for processing to begin.