22 Aug 2013

Refugee advocate group condemns transfer of first asylum seekers to Nauru

5:13 pm on 22 August 2013

The Australia-based Refugee Action Coalition has condemned Canberra for transferring the first asylum seeker families to Nauru.

Australia's Department of Immigration and Citizenship says 26 people, including 14 adults and 12 children were flown to the island today.

The seven families, most Iranian, join 478 single adult men already in the Australian-run detention centres.

The Refugee Action Coalition's Ian Rintoul says sending families now is a shameful election stunt by Labor.

IAN RINTOUL: I think the motivation is entirely the Federal Election. I think there are no facilities, no facilities, on Nauru that are appropriate for family groups or children. The Labor government promised that families wouldn't descend until there were adequate facilities which included special accommodation, the arrangements for the children, the education and medical facilities. What they've done is dump them in a bulldozed bare area in the middle of the island in tents.

DON WISEMAN: It's not that far away from the wet season, and we know that last year that was a fairly horrific time on Nauru.

IR: It's just prior to the rainy season. It's still stinking hot and humid. It is a bare area, so that means the kids are going to be playing in the limestone stuff and the debris from the old phosphate mining remnants. There have been issues of that before with other detainees getting skin rashes and so forth. As far as we know there's no running water in that facility yet. So it is an election ploy. The family groups that have been sent to Nauru are more just sacrifices to slavish hopes to ride to election victory on the back of asylum seekers.

DW: We know that they are mostly Iranian families. Is there anything else known about these families?

IR: No, I've got no details about the families whatsoever. We do know a number of other families, or family groups. I don't know of any immediately with children, but others who are being told that they will be removed to Nauru in the next few weeks.

DW: Now, they have also removed a group of men. What's that? Is that about making room? Why have they done that?

IR: Because I think the people who are already on Nauru really are not covered by the latest offshore resettlement proposals. So I think that we'll find is increasingly the single men who had been the inhabitants of the detention centre prior to 19 July will progressively be moved off Nauru to detention centres in Australia. A very similar thing happened in Manus Island. It's now been almost depopulated of people who were there prior to 19 July, who aren't covered by the PNG deal and they've also been brought to the Australian mainland. But it just really shows the hypocrisy, the stupidity of the deal, that we should be putting family groups on Nauru and taking 27 single men off. It's shuffling the deck chairs. It's just playing dice with people's lives. It depends on dates, it depends on family groups, it depends on the win of the Labor government, whether people are dumped on Nauru or brought to the mainland. It just shows that there is no principled politics behind what the Labor Party is doing to asylum seekers.