4 May 2016

Nauru points to advocates over refugee protests

7:30 pm on 4 May 2016

The Nauru President says advocates and activists have overstepped the line by telling refugees and asylum seekers to quit their jobs and become full-time protesters.

Protest on Nauru

Protest on Nauru Photo: supplied Refugee Action Coalition

Baron Waqa issued a video message on the government website a day after the Australian immigration minister, Peter Dutton, blamed refugee advocates for two refugees setting fire to themselves in the past week.

One of them has since died.

Mr Waqa says refugees are not in detention but enjoy the same freedoms enjoyed by Nauruans, although refugees have better facilities than locals.

He says reports from support workers on the island suggest many employed refugee and asylum seekers are being instructed by activists to stay away from work.

Protest on Nauru

Protest on Nauru Photo: supplied Refugee Action Coalition

Mr Waqa says there's a time when one must be realistic and accept the circumstances.

Access to Nauru is heavily restricted, with media representatives required to pay $US5000 as a non-refundable visa application fee.

New Zealand as well as Australian citizens also need a local sponsor, who risks jail if visa conditions are breached.

One foreign journalist, from the Australian, has been admitted since Nauru hiked the visa fee forty-fold two years ago. It is not known if that journalist was charged the visa application fee.

Refugee self harm a result of 'limbo' situation

Australian authorities have told refugees and asylum seekers they can either go home, or settle elsewhere but they will never settle in Australia.

The Nauru Government has told them there is no long term option to stay in Nauru.

A suspended Nauru opposition MP says refugees on the island need clear information from Australia as to what their permanent options are.

Sprent Dabwido said some people have resorted to self harm and suicide due to the stress of not knowing what the future holds, and the fact that their plan to reach Australia has been thwarted.

"They are frustrated that they probably expect to be here from three to five years, but if you don't tell them that and if you don't give them a way to go then some of them cannot handle it, and they're very demanding now that they should go to Australia," he said.

Sprent Dabwido said Australia must take more initiative in resettling the refugees.

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