Multiple children dangerously ill while Nauru shields forum attendees amid democratic decline

The situation on Nauru has been critical for a long time. And yet it continues to worsen. With the Pacific Islands Forum now underway (1 – 9 Sept), the innocent people detained indefinitely on the island have had to deal with more disruptions and imposed restrictions. And it seems the nation of Nauru itself might be in a perilous state.

Last week, the nauruan government moved asylum seekers out of regional processing centre 3 (RPC-3) and demolished the tents.

At least 100 people have continued to live there since the facility was deemed “open” i.e. allowing freedom of movement to detainees three years ago. The Guardian reports that “island sources and advocates say the move is to ensure there are no children living in tents behind the camp fences when foreign leaders and visitors arrive, given previous requests from families to move have repeatedly and recently been rejected by centre authorities” and that refugees working at a local hotel have been stood down from work so they won’t have incidental contact with visiting leaders.

The Nauruan government has taken steps to avoid scrutiny of the Australian-run centres during the forum.

They have limited the number of media spots available, purportedly due to accommodation issues and have specifically banned the ABC from attending. The Guardian formally applied for a visa but was rejected. Nauru’s government also released statements urging attending journalists to focus on the forum and “not engage in activities that cause or encourage disruption or civil unrest.

Nauru’s “unlawful assembly” law will be being highly policed to prevent protests by refugees and a new law will prohibit any disrespectful behaviour to the country

The ‘unlawful assembly’ law prohibits people gathering in groups of three or more where “the assembly … would cause a reasonable person to fear … unlawful violence against people or property”. It has been used arbitrarily to break up protests by refugees on the islands, and even to stop parliamentarians leading demonstrations. In addition, recently introduced laws make it an offence, punishable by up to five years’ jail, to show disrespect to the Nauruan flag, emblem or anthem.

DESPITE THESE MEASURES, the Forum remains at risk of being overshadowed by its role in Australia’s offshore processing regime because of THE ACUTE MENTAL ILLNESS OF DOZENS OF REFUGEE CHILDREN

The Guardian reports that medical sources on Nauru say at least 20 children are in the Australian-run regional processing centre 1 (RPC1) on “food and fluid refusal” and at risk of permanent harm or deathOther refugee children who remain in the community are also refusing to eat and drink, but are not receiving intensive medical care “because RPC1 is full of dangerously sick kids”, a Nauru source said. Doctors for Justice convenor Louise Newman stated that “Children are repeatedly attempting suicide by lethal means. There has been a disturbing rise in cases of traumatic withdrawal syndrome also known as resignation syndrome.”

In addition, the father of the 12-year-old girl who tried to set herself alight says his daughter is not getting medical treatment and is refusing to eat and drink. “Her desire to die is very high,” her father has said. She was taken to Nauru hospital following her self-immolation attempt, where she was held for a day-and-a-half, but was told by doctors there there was nothing that could be done for her and she was discharged. Doctors warned two weeks ago that the child needed to be moved urgently off the island, but those clinical recommendations have been overruled by the Australian Border Force, and she remains on the island. “I strongly suspect that she will continue to deteriorate until the level of risk of death is unbearable, or until she proceeds to actually kill herself,” an IHMS psychiatrist reported to the ABF four days before her self-immolation attempt. “I do not think it is reasonable to simply wait until that point is reached. The case is expected to come before the federal court in Australia within days. The family, held on Nauru for five years, also includes the girl’s 13-year-old brother and their mother, both of whom are also seriously mentally ill. The father has told authorities he cannot even leave their accommodation to get food for the family for fear someone in his family will try to kill themselves in his absence. Every member of the family has been formally recognised as a refugee who is legally owed protection by Australia. But all were rejected for resettlement by the United States after progressing through preliminary interviews and health checks.

Adding to all this turmoil is today’s report that not only have citizens’ rights been eroded but that Human rights advocates say there has been a breakdown in the rule of law on the Pacific island – with judges have been sacked and opposition politicians jailed … so Australia is paying to prop up one of the most dysfunctional governments on the planet . (More at this link.)

As all this occurs, 84 non-government organisations from across the Pacific, led by Amnesty International, have signed an open letter calling on the Pacific Island Forum to put Australia’s offshore processing regime at the top of the meeting’s agenda.


And there are actions that ANYONE CAN TAKE to try and make a difference for the people detained indefinitely offshore … because the australian government can put a stop to it all now.

You can speak up for:

  • the cessation of offshore detention,
  • the permanent relocation of refugees to communities where they can build their futures and have access to vital healthcare and other services and
  • the immediate evacuation of all children with those at high risk as a first priority

Please contact:

The Minister for Immigration
Christian Porter
by clicking here to send an email or
phoning his electorate office on (08) 6296 7255 and/or his parliamentary office on (02) 6277 7300

The Minister for Home Affairs
Peter Dutton
by clicking here to send an email or
phoning his electorate office on (07) 3205 9977 and/or his parliamentary office on (02) 6277 7860

The Prime Minister of Australia
Scott Morrison
by clicking here to send an email and/or here to fill in the PM’s contact form or
phoning his electorate office on (02) 9523 0339 and/or his parliamentary office on (02) 6277 7700

For more detail on the information above, click on the links (underlined text) and/or for background and additional stories on offshore detention on Nauru, go to our Nauru Detention page here.

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