Nauru: Lack of transparency around new asylum seekers detained on island
In October 2023, it was reported that a group of asylum seekers who attempted to arrive in Australia by boat has been sent to Nauru.
According to Guardian Australia, a group of asylum seekers was intercepted in September 2023 and taken to Nauru. Staff of International Health and Medical Services have been asked to work on Nauru to provide health services to the cohort, believed to number 11.
On 23rd October 2023, in the Senate committee, Rear Adm. Justin Jones, commander of Australia’s Operation Sovereign Borders, declined to give details about the asylum seekers including whether children or women were among them, their nationalities, which country they had left from in their attempt to get to Australia or how long they would be detained. Green Party Senator Nick McKim said the secrecy was “outrageous.”
The last refugees held by Australia on Nauru were evacuated off the island in June 2023. Human rights and refugee advocacy groups had then welcomed the end of offshore processing on Nauru, but said many of those held “suffered irreparable damage in indefinite detention on the island”.
However, the detention centre has remained open at a cost of USD 350 million a year as a contingency to send people in the event of boat arrivals. Fees and income tax on the profits of the detention centre operator have for several years contributed more than half of the Nauru government’s annual revenue, its budget documents show.
As previously documented, human rights groups have called Australia’s policy of detaining migrants offshore a violation of international rights laws. The UN has urged Australia to resettle those migrants being housed on both islands following reports of self-harming and attempted suicide by residents of the centres.
In February 2020, the International Criminal Court (ICC) found that detention conditions of refugees in Nauru may constitute a breach of international law. This detention appears to amount to “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment”, according to the Court.