11 Oct 2013

Refugee advocate says Australia calling shots on Nauru

7:05 pm on 11 October 2013

An advocate for refugees says it is a scandal that Australia is deporting five Sri Lankans seeking asylum without assessing their claims.

The five had spent about a year incarcerated in a camp on Nauru until being moved to the remote Curtin camp in northern West Australia two months ago.

The spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition, Ian Rintoul, told Don Wiseman it appears the Australian government is simply weeding out the nationals of some countries and refusing to allow any assessment of the validity of their claims.

IAN RINTOUL: When they arrived here they were told that whatever happened on Nauru was of no effect and that they'd be treated as if they arrived in Australia and now they have been told that they're going to be removed.

DON WISEMAN: And any explanation for why?

IR: No, there's none at all, it does look to me as if the government has responded in the same kind of way it has responded with some other Sri Lankans and that is effectively screened out, simply the government is not even allowing them to make a protection application or to process to allow them to put a claim even, that they're simply going to be returned to Sri Lanka. This is the first time they've attempted to do that but what it does expose I think is the whole fiction in terms of the arrangements between Australia and Nauru, it's very clear that it's the Australian Immigration Department which is making the decisions about at least some of the people who they were responsible for originally sending to Nauru in the first place. They sent these guys to Nauru a year ago then in August decided they were going to come back to Australia, now they're going to send them back to Sri Lanka. I mean it's very clear that it is not Nauru that is making the decisions and these people have been the Australian government's responsibility all along.

DW: These people that have been moved from Nauru to Curtin was this primarily to create room on Nauru, why were they moved?

IR: I think you'll find that it's an administrative arrangement that the Immigration Department has actually probably looked at their claims, thinks that because they are Sinhalese that they could be screened out without processing in Nauru in the same way as happens in Australia and so the decision has just been made about these five. There's certainly not an issue about rooms that's for sure, although there was a bit of a crises after the detention centre burnt down in July, the government has been expanding the appalling tent city that's replaced the old detention centre, the one that's been burned, but there's certainly accommodation enough for five people. The answer's not to be found in terms of accommodation I think it's a political decision which as I said earlier reflects the Australian Government's control of what is actually happening right down to the point of actual processing on Nauru.

DW: And on Nauru there have been a fair number, dozens who have had their refugee status assessed, decisions have been made and these decisions were made by mid-July we know, but there's been no announcement about what's happening with those people.

IR: People were waiting in July it was one of the issues that was behind the fires in July 19th, people have been now kept in appalling conditions well after the deadline when they were meant to be told the outcome of their assessments. From what I hear it's very clear that tensions are building up on Nauru again and partly because you've got people in all likelihood that have been found to be refugees according to their processing on Nauru but this information is being denied to them so they are quite deliberately being kept in these appalling conditions in spite of the fact that the expectation is that a good majority of them will actually be refugees. I mean it's absolutely appalling treatment that's being dished out to them.