Target: Australian Immigration Minister Brendan O’Connor
Goal: Close the hellish refugee detention center in Nauru
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations in 1948, states that everyone in the world has the right to seek political asylum. Yet many countries have ignored this particular passage, even supposedly developed countries. Case in point: Australia is holding hundreds of political refugees in a hellish offshore prison center.
Australia’s proximity to Asia has long attracted Vietnamese, Cambodian, and Burmese refugees, but in more recent years they have been getting people from Iran, Iraq, even as far away as Somalia. Desperate to escape persecution in their home countries, these refugees venture on frail boats to the shores of Australia seeking asylum. But they have not been welcomed.
In 2001, the Australian government made arrangements with the government of the small island nation of Nauru to build an off-shore detention center to hold the refugees while they were processed and cared for by the Australian government–at least that was the intention. In reality, the center has become a hellish prison and has been used more as a deterrent to future asylum-seekers than any kind of humanitarian operation.
The detention center was closed in 2007 due to controversy but reopened last year due to a recent influx of refugees, most of them fleeing conflict areas in Southeast Asia and the Middle East. What they have encountered at Nauru is hardly any better.
The media has been barred from entering the camp, but an Amnesty International team dubbed the center “a human rights catastrophe with no end in sight.” The official report described leaky tents, squalid conditions, and soaring temperatures. Mary Evans, a veteran nurse who was hired to work at the detention center, resigned from her position after only three weeks and called it “a concentration camp.” She claimed to have witnessed numerous incidents of self-harm and heard second-hand stories of sexual assaults in the center.
There are currently almost 400 people living in the Nauru processing center, some of whom have been there for months with no attempt to actually process their appeals for asylum. In fact, officials claim that each refugee could expect to remain in Nauru for up to five years. Any amount of time in these inhumane conditions is unacceptable, but to hold these refugees in extended limbo is downright monstrous.
Right now, we have a chance to close the center: incoming Immigration Minister Brendan O’Connor has responded to the publicity surrounding Evans’ statements by promising to visit the center and investigate its conditions. Sign this petition urging him to close the Nauru processing center and let him know that the world is watching.
Dear Minister O’Connor,
The off-shore refugee processing center on the island of Nauru has been called nothing short of “a human rights catastrophe” and “a concentration camp.” Its 400 residents, all refugees seeking asylum, have endured intolerable conditions.
Under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which Australia voted in favor of, every individual on Earth has the right to escape persecution and seek political asylum in a foreign country. Holding refugees in limbo, let alone keeping them in camps that have been condemned by Amnesty International, does not abide by this Declaration.
The world is watching, Minister. Do not let Australia sink so low in the arena of human rights. We urge you to close the Nauru processing center immediately and process the legitimate claims of all refugees currently held there.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Evans-Amos via Wikimedia Commons