Refugees on Nauru to continue protests of some form
The Refugee Action Coalition says the mass arrests of refugees won't stop protests against Australia's asylum seeker detention programme in Nauru.
The Refugee Action Coalition says the mass arrests of refugees won't stop protests against Australia's asylum seeker detention programme in Nauru. Nearly 200 refugees were arrested after protests this week which followed a campaign of non-cooperation that has seen boycotts of schools, English classes and refugees quitting their jobs.
The RAC's Ian Rintoul told Koro Vaka'uta some of those arrested included children:
IAN RINTOUL: Yeah the children, the underage people, were taken out of detention. They were back at the camp. But in many cases, they were without their parents.
KORO VAKA'UTA: Do we know what charges they are being held under?
IR: We have no idea yet. But it does seem that the Nauruan police or the Nauruan government are determined to put people through the courts. It's very clear that it's farcical and that many people are just being picked up for doing nothing except walking along the road. Some of the people arrested were actually arrested inside the compound, some as early as 4AM the police went and arrested them in the compound. So they'll be completely trumped up charges and it's just an attempt to put an end to the non-cooperation campaign.
KV: In terms of escalation, there have been reports also that tension between asylum seekers and the local population has risen. Is that a feeling you're getting?
IR: It's mixed. There's always been a minority that have very anti-refugee feelings. A few refugees have been attacked. Our concern is that the attitudes of the authorities will encourage that minority. One guy had to be shooed away from the hospital last Friday. He was there with a bunch of Nauruans with knives, threatening the refugees who were at the hospital. But I think it;s very easy to see how the anti-refugee sentiment being stirred up by the government will only encourage the anti-refugee minority. The repression by the state is going to make the life of refugees that much more difficult in terms of social dislocation.
KV: Given that environment, would we expect more protests or things to quieten down a bit?
IR: It's very clear that the campaign of non-cooperation is not going to go away. I think what the Nauru and Australian governments need to understand is that people are left without a future They're living in extremely deprived circumstances. There's no light at the end of the tunnel. There's no doubt the protests are going to continue. I spoke to people who hadn't been arrested. While they're dismayed at what the government has done, they're also very angry that they see their democratic rights to protest (have been infringed) given the places where they've come from; they think the Nauru government has not acted like a democracy but like a dictatorship. It's made them more determined to fight for their democratic rights and their recognition as refugees, as people who need to be protected.
KV: As far as the Nauruan government is concerned, they say that it's a minority being encouraged by refugee advocates from Australia to stir up things...
IR: Look, the whole statement from the Nauruan government is farcical and we've seen similar kinds of excuses in the past. Somehow there are faceless agitators somewhere. But it's always farcical. It's the conditions on Nauru that are driving protests. No amount of trying to point the finger can get away from the fact that the Nauru government is being paid millions of dollars simply to maintain a prison regime.
To embed this content on your own webpage, cut and paste the following: