Amnesty gives initial negative report on Nauru processing centre | Pacific Beat

Amnesty gives initial negative report on Nauru processing centre

Amnesty gives initial negative report on Nauru processing centre

Updated 20 November 2012, 18:08 AEST

A team from Amnesty International says conditions at Australia's immigration detention camp in Nauru are unacceptable and the detainess are living in deplorable conditions.

The Amnesty team inspected the detention centre this morning.

It is the first independent inspection of the facility since it began housing asylum seekers in late September.

The ABC's Jeff Waters has been with the Amnesty team in Nauru and described its finding to Bruce Hill.

Presenter: Bruce Hill

Speaker: Jeff Waters reporting from Nauru

WATERS: Well unfortunately Bruce nobody will let the ABC in or any other media. The only people as you said at the first independent inspection were the two inspectors, researchers from Amnesty International, and they described it as pretty bad. They say it's very overcrowded, there are almost 400 people there now, and they're living about 15 or so to a tent. They say that the tents are wet inside as well as outside, and that the detainees are picking up infections as a result. They say that mental health issues are enormous, particularly since some of the asylum seekers were subject to trauma before they even left their home countries, and there's been an amount of self-harm going on. One attempted suicide, and they're not very happy with the way they're being treated particularly because they haven't even started to be assessed yet as asylum seekers, whether or not they're refugees.

HILL: Well you've spoken obviously to the Amnesty International people. How do they feel about what they saw today?

WATERS: Well they said that they were quite in their words, taken aback, they were surprised by the extent of the problems with the detention centre, and as I said and as you said that it was quite deplorable the way that people were being held there.

HILL: But the Australian government had a bit of time to get this prepared. If the conditions are as bad as Amnesty International says they are, why are they so bad? Why weren't preparations not made to have adequate facilities?

WATERS: Well you'd have to ask the Australian government that one Bruce. Nauru is a fairly isolated place, they made a snap decision, a quick decision to start sending asylum seekers here from Christmas Island, which is of course probably equidistant from Australia, but in the Indian Ocean, oh actually it's probably closer. So they just appear not to have had the time to make proper facilities. I'm told that the asylum seekers did get a briefing, I think it was yesterday afternoon, on plans to improve the centre, but the asylum seekers that I've spoken to on the phone from the centre tell me that they weren't happy with that either. They'd rather be processed.

HILL: I was going to ask you why that you representing the ABC or any media aren't allowed in there to have a look at the conditions but if they're as bad as the Amnesty International people say, I guess that question kind of answers itself?

WATERS: Well what I've been told by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship is that I can't go in because there would be a potential for trouble, that the detainees might start to do things to attract attention, and that those things might become dangerous, and that's why I'm told that I'm not allowed in.

HILL: I suppose looking at it from the other perspective you could suggest that the detainees would have an interest in making the conditions appear as bad as possible to get sympathy. Would there be any truth in that perhaps?

WATERS: Well that could very well be the case, of course that could be the case. But the Amnesty people came out and as I said were very critical of the conditions inside. So I'm afraid not being able to go in there myself I can only report back on what I hear others say.

HILL: Is this an issue primarily for the Australian government or to what extent does this involve the Nauruan government, which has accepted having this centre on the island?

WATERS: I understand that the Nauruan government wasn't very happy with the media portrayal of the detention centre which was here some years ago under the previous Australian government. And I'm told that they're kind of not happy with the idea of media going in either. But of course they have some stewardship over this detention centre. I can only assume that they're monitoring the situation as well.

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Bruce Hill

Bruce Hill

Presenter

Bruce is one of the Pacific’s most experienced journalists with nearly 20 years covering the region and has won several international awards.

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