22 Oct 2013

Nauru government told to provide more information on asylum seekers

5:51 pm on 22 October 2013

A Nauru Opposition MP says the government must come clean about what is happening at the refugee detention camps on the island.

It is believed there are more than 800 people housed in tents in the Australian-run camps.

But the Nauru government, which is officially in charge, will not say how many they are housing nor how many have been found to be genuine refugees.

MP Roland Kun told Don Wiseman this has to change.

ROLAND KUN: There's not been enough information put out by government in terms of general administration of the centre, the processing of asylum seekers and how the government proposes to manage the limitations of the island against the increase in population over projected increase in population. There has not been enough parliament sittings in order that parliament is able to raise the questions and the public will benefit from the answers. So there's just not enough information going out.

DON WISEMAN: This new government was the opposition in pushing for a change back in March, April, May, and eventually came in at the end of May. How many times has parliament sat since?

RK: There's only been two sittings. There was a sitting for the purpose of budget and there was a sitting where the parliament was sworn in.

DW: Is your feeling that this lack of information is because Nauru, the Nauru government, is being told what to do by Australia or is it just an unwillingness on the part of the Nauru government to part with information?

RK: I believe it's an unwillingness. From my experience, the Australian government is quite reasonable in terms of how we made joint decisions, but I think it's largely the government not seeing reason to provide information.

DW: What sense is there that on this tiny island of 21km2 you're starting to feel the pressure of both the inmates in the camp and the hundreds of people there running it?

RK: There's two sides of that impact - there's the economic upside and then there's all the other negative impacts which need to be managed. Our concern at the moment is we need to understand where the management part of it is and that is not forthcoming.

DW: In terms of the negatives, of course, we know that Nauru has for many years had issues with electricity generation and this has become far worse.

RK: It has become far worse and we don't even know why. As I say, we're not even getting information provided. The regional processing centre do have their own back-up power generation that supports the camps, so they probably don't feel it as much as we do or don't feel it at all. But, yes, there's other difficulties in terms of management of services on the island which need to be addressed and which need to be addressed in terms of what's happening with the regional processing centre.

DW: Is there a sense that there's a lot more money in the community now as a result of this camp?

RK: There is definitely a sense of that. There's greater employment and there's greater economic activity. Of course beyond that are other issues which have not crystallised as quickly, unfortunately, because of the fact that there's the economic upside which may blur the other issues, such as waste management and access to services for the larger population.