2012 has been a vigilant year for Australia and its asylum seeker ‘problem’.
In September, four boats arrived in the space of one week and all eyes are on the Labor government as they push for what they say was a successful initiation – I am referring to the Nauru and Manus Island detention centres.
Australia’s immigration Minister Chris Bowen has claimed that the detention centres constructed within the boundaries of the small island will hold 500 asylum seekers by the end of September. Once fully operational, it is expected to take 1500.
Facilities on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island will house 600 people.
The staffing costs at immigration detention centres have flourished by $650 million, with some claiming the entire contract is expected to rack a bill of up to 1.6 billion Australian dollars.
There are various unconfirmed reports that over 10 Sri Lankans have requested to return to their torn homelands due to their treatment by the detention centres. Opposition leader Tony Abbott has made a controversial claim that this “shows [that] using the Pacific Island works in discouraging boat arrivals.”
Other claims – equally unconfirmed – have surfaced that a small number of refugees were denied their wishes to return to their homeland – a claim, that if true, will severely influence Australia’s reputation with the Human Rights Watch.
It has been confirmed that The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) is refusing to work with the government to process asylum-seekers on Nauru and Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island.
The UNHCR’s district representative Rick Towle stated fairly that:
“Australia may choose to transfer physically people to other jurisdictions, but we believe that under international law very clearly Australia is not absolved of its legal responsibilities to protect people through all aspects of the processing and solutions.”
He also claimed that the UNHCR has several concerns with Australia’s offshore processing arrangements.
He alleged that it would be difficult to make “full and credible” refugee status determinations in such remote locations.
“We are dealing with very vulnerable populations, particularly women and children (and) unaccompanied minors, and to try and manage all of their needs in a protection-appropriate way in remote places, particularly in the Pacific, has proven to be challenging in the past and we have no doubt it will be challenging again in the future,”
Particulars about Nauru
They use the Australian dollar and rely on Phosphate mining to stimulate the economy, Phosphate as a substance has been dwindling for the past few years, causing severe repercussions to the country’s economy.
Nauru has had a very interesting history – During World War II, the country was occupied by Japan and failed to gain independent status until 1968. Relics of bomb shells and weaponry lay randomly on the island and surrounding ocean.
Next to the Vatican City, Nauru is the least populated location on Earth; an achievement which will most probably disappear if Australia chooses to transfer more asylum seekers (and judging by the Nauruan economy, this seems very likely).
The country is roughly 4500 kilometers from the Australian coastline; with their national airline consisting of one Boeing 737. The only way there from Australia is via Brisbane.