UN trip to Nauru called off by islands government
United Nations agency has invitation to assess human rights on Nauru withdrawn by the government with no explanation.
Human rights investigators from the United Nations have been banned from travelling to Nauru to check on asylum seekers sent there by Australia.
The order to stay away was given as the group were about to depart for the Pacific Island after a two-week visit to New Zealand looking at arbitrary detention in this country.
The UN delegation have been in New Zealand for two week's looking at this country's policies on Mandatory detention.
Eric Frykberg reports.
Their next port of call for the UN delegation should have been Nauru, where Australia's policy of housing asylum seekers in camps has been repeatedly criticised. But the head of the United Nations delegation, Mads Andernas from Norway, says his team is not being allowed in.
MADS ANDERNAS: The government of Nauru, which invited us, have asked us not to come. They cite practical reasons for it not being suitable, or practical, for us to come.
The mission would have reported to the United Nations Human Rights Council on conditions faced by asylum seekers on the barren island. But a colleague of Mr Andernas, Roberto Garreton from Chile, says the invitation was cancelled.
ROBERTO GARRETON: Those who needed to got visas, and then a week ahead of time they just cancelled the invitation, with the excuse of unforeseen circumstances. Which seems rather flimsy.
Australia started sending asylum seekers to barren Nauru in 2001, to deter other asylum seekers from trying to get into Australia. The camp was later closed, then reopened, and now has several hundred people living there. Graeme McGregor from Amnesty International in Australia says conditions on Nauru are very harsh and are being kept secret.
GRAEME McGREGOR: This is not an isolated incident. This is just another denial of transparency in a string of denial. Although the Australian people are paying billions of dollars for this policy, they're not getting to see what's actually going on in their name. And the really concerning thing obviously about people on Nauru being exposed to harsh, humiliating conditions, is that there are children there.
There have been riots, hunger strikes and self harm by inmates who set out for a new life in Australia only to be removed to a camp on a barren Pacific atoll. Mads Andernas of the UN inspectors, is not commenting on conditions there without being allowed to visit. But he does say openly that Australia should not be sending asylum seekers to Nauru.
MADS ANDERNAS: This must not happen because states have obligations not to transfer individuals to camps where individuals are held in violation of international law. Simple as that.
Radio New Zealand has been told the UN visit was blocked by the Nauru government under instructions from Canberra, because Australia plans to move still more asylum seekers to the island. It was feared the UN inspectors might get in the way of a new transfer. This could not be confirmed. But the UN team says it still wants to check out Nauru and will submit a new application to do so.
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