Protesting asylum seekers in Nauru sew mouths | Pacific Beat

Protesting asylum seekers in Nauru sew mouths

Protesting asylum seekers in Nauru sew mouths

Updated 20 February 2013, 15:35 AEDT

Reports from Nauru say a group of asylum seekers in the Australian detention centre have stitched their lips together as part of a hunger strike.

The Department of Immigration has confirmed that four detainees had been involved in an act of self harm - but refused to go into detail.

The Refugee Action Coalition says more than a dozen detainees have joined the hunger strike, with four of them sewing up their lips as part of a protest over the poor conditions in the Nauru detention centre.

Ian Rintoul from the Refugee Action Coalition says despair has driven the detainees to sew their lips together.

Presenter: Richard Ewart

Speaker: Ian Rintoul, Refugee Action Coalition


RINTOUL: I was told yesterday from Nauru that four people had stitched their lips, yes.
EWART: What does it tell us really about the state of mind of these individuals and about the atmosphere within the camp generally?
RINTOUL: Well, I think it says something about their despair and desperation and it really is in same way it was under the Howard government is just an indication of their powerlessness, that they've tried everything, they feel that they've gone to the authorities, they've been singularly victimised and I think it is just a final gesture of despair and their powerlessness to do anything about their situation.
EWART: Can you tell us anything at all about the background of these individuals or any of the others involved in this current hunger strike. Are they all from one nation?
RINTOUL: As I understand it, all they're all Iranians and that they're all involved in the most recent transfers from Australia to Nauru. And obviously what we're seeing is the same thing we've seen here the original transfers to Nauru and to Manus Island and then again with the most recent transfers to Manus Island. People are usually, what they see as tricked into going, people are not warned that they're going to Nauru or Manus Island, that they're grabbed very early in the morning, and it's only when they're grabbed very early in the morning and then they're made to believe that they are being shifted. Most people are shifted out of detention in Australia into the community, but these handful of people, have been victimised and are then effectively shanghaied and sent to Nauru and I think that creates a tremendous level of despair, because once they're there, they're told, you could be there for five years or for longer. There is no refugee processing for you and then inspite as I said.
EWART: I wanted to ask you about the fact that certainly when the first hunger strike began after the camp had been reopened in Nauru sometime ago now. Things seemed to calm down somewhat when Amnesty International sent their inspection team in there. Since then, we've had a UN inspection team going in as well. But it would seem that the reports that those two organisations have produced, have not made much difference?
RINTOUL: No, I think that's the stark reality, that inspite of very damming reports from Amnesty and from the UNHCR, nothing has changed and I think the recent effective fall of the government on Nauru has left everything in complete limbo. There's now no effective government on Nauru that can put into place any kind of refugee processing arrangements. On top of that, you've got the recent outrages in Afghanistan, which oversee demonstrations in all the capital cities in Australia today. I mean there's just a thousand and one things that really bring home to people on Nauru that what is going to apply for the vast majority of people is not going to apply to them. You have got a handful of people that are victimised by this discriminatory selection process to be sent to Nauru and there really is no longer the, if there ever was. I mean there was never any justification for it. But I don't think the Australian government can pretend that there any kind of justifications still exist.
EWART: You mentioned the situation as far as the Nauruan government is concerned and certainly I've seen quotes suggesting that their Cabinet is no longer constitutional, because of the number of resignations there have been in recent days. Does that mean nobody on Nauru now who can advocate for the asylum seekers who can, as it were, sit in judgement on what's happening there?
RINTOUL: Well there's no government, there's no administration and there is no process in place as yet to actually assess people's claims. So how the Australian government, I mean it says something about the kind of government arrangement they've got between Australia and Nauru anyway that we can see this kind of collapse, but there is no processing arrangement in place, so there is some law a bit, but there is not a law which establishes like a Refugee tribunal, there are no assessors, there are no interpreters, there's no mechanism to actually assess these claims. So we've dumped 410, 415 people on Nauru, saying that they're going to be processed in an offshore detention centre, when there is no processing arrangement and nothing which looks like being set up in anytime in the near future or even the mid term. 

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