How to Help People in Nauru: Aid for Asylum Seekers

Nauru is the smallest republic in the world. The island located in the South Pacific has just 10,000 citizens. It has two main income sources: phosphate mines, which have been exploited over the years, and a detention camp that has become home to hundreds of refugees that tried to find asylum in Australia.

The process is simple: asylum seekers who attempt to reach Australia by boat are sent directly to Nauru‘s detention camp. Recently, several publications have denounced the violence and the lack of human rights protections that the refugees experience in the camp. How to help people in Nauru has turned into a two-pronged topic, one for the asylum seekers and one for the Nauruans.

The MV Tampa Policy

The refugee landscape in Nauru was shaped by Australia, one of the most developed countries in the world. In 2001, after a freighter with 400 Afghan Hazara refugees was refused entry into Australian territory, Nauru became an offshore detention center.

That event led the Australian government to create a public policy called MV Tampa. In brief, this policy states that no person who arrives in the country by boat seeking asylum should settle in Australia. Instead, they are sent to Nauru or to Papua New Guinea in exchange for monetary aid.

That problem was resolved in 2007, when most of the refugees found accommodation in other countries. But in 2012, the issue arose again, when a number of news articles published information about the terrible conditions that refugees experienced in the camp. Since then, more refugees have been sent to the island.

The United Nations addressed the crisis in Nauru in 2016. “We are extremely concerned about the serious allegations of violence, sexual assault, degrading treatment and self-harm contained in more than 1,000 incident reports from offshore processing centres on Nauru, many of which reportedly involved children,” said Ravina Shamdasani, spokesperson for the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Good News for Refugees

This September, good news traveled to Nauru: about 50 refugees were accepted for resettlement in the United States. In addition, diverse organizations also support the island refugees’ cause. How to help people in Nauru has become a question that has found some answers.

After several reports detailing the human rights violations against refugees in Nauru, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch pushed to provide aid to asylum seekers. One important action they took last year was to force international Health and Medical Services to provide healthcare to the children and women in the camp. In addition, they fought to end the violence and sexual harassment taking place there. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees also demanded the closure of the offshore processing facility and called for the immediate transfer of refugees out of the detention camp.

Local organizations like Refugee Council of Australia and Asylum Seeker Resource Centre are working to bring refugees better living conditions. In addition to assisting with health, legal, and education aid for the asylum seekers, these foundations have also developed a job training program for the refugees, a project that has empowered people in the detention camp. If you have wondered how to help people in Nauru, you can donate money to these organizations.

However, on the island, Nauruans face an elevated unemployment rate. According to the U.N., 23% of people are unemployed, a number directly related to the imminent extinction of the phosphate mines. It is expected that extraction of the mineral will be able to continue for only 30 more years.

How to help people in Nauru, or how to help refugees on the island and the people of the island, is a complex question involving various nations, but organizations efforts are getting significant results. The next months will be crucial in the resolution of the refugee crisis.

Dario Ledesma

Photo: Flickr