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Leaked photographs from the Nauru immigration detention centre
December 5, 2013 10:35 PM   Subscribe

For the first time, photographs have leaked out from inside the Nauru immigration detention centre. Reopened in 2012, the detention centre houses between 500-600 people, mostly of Iranian background, who are attempting to seek asylum in Australia. The centre was most recently in the news following riots that destroyed much of the facility's infrastructure. Conditions at the center have been criticised by the UN's High Commissioner for Human Rights as "unbearable".
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot (31 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
So glad we have The Guardian to expose this.
posted by Jimbob at 10:43 PM on December 5, 2013 [9 favorites]


This is paralyzingly awful.
posted by planetesimal at 11:21 PM on December 5, 2013


why is photography illegal?
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 11:22 PM on December 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Probably because children in cages never plays well in the news.
posted by planetesimal at 11:24 PM on December 5, 2013 [6 favorites]


A continued, unmitigated, national disgrace. And now, with the Liberal Govt. in control, it's extremely unlikely that the race-baiters in Parliament will do anything about it.
posted by Neale at 11:27 PM on December 5, 2013 [6 favorites]


Um, should we be commenting on these images? particularly if these alleged images are indeed images depicting person who may or may not be "illegals" engaging or not engaging in on water or off water activities?

I await the weekly briefing.
posted by mattoxic at 11:55 PM on December 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Heartless politicians run Australia. Despicable.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:58 PM on December 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I feel like whether you are a prisoner at Guantanamo or a refugee at Nauru, you should be able to waive your privacy in exchange for government accountability.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 11:59 PM on December 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


your privacy?

it ceases to to become your anything once you a passed into the system.
posted by mattoxic at 12:05 AM on December 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


If privacy is not an issue, then nothing should trump government accountability to taxpayers.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 12:15 AM on December 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Australian immigration policy is racist and inhumane? Are we surprised?
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 12:53 AM on December 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


.
posted by Coaticass at 12:57 AM on December 6, 2013


Locking a few thousand undeserving criminals (who knowingly consorted with criminal people-smugglers to breach Australia's sovereignty) away in third world administrative hell holes to deter unfortunate asylum seekers from risking their lives on leaky boats in an attempt to get here is cruel, very cruel. And logical, very logical.
posted by mattoxic at 1:28 AM on December 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


We've been doing this for a fair old while now, and I can't really see that it's doing much to deter at all.
posted by Jimbob at 1:37 AM on December 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


The national anthem is going to require a fair bit of rewriting at this point. I mean, would it have been so hard to brutally mistreat those who've come across the seas in the middle of a boundless plain somewhere? We've got a few to spare.
posted by mixing at 1:52 AM on December 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


why is photography illegal?

Because if the Australian public sees that asylum seekers are actual human beings, they might demand that their government start treating them as such.

mattoxic: I can't tell if you're being sarcastic or not, but crossing a border to claim asylum is not illegal. Asylum seekers are not criminals - they are exercising rights guaranteed to them under international law. The Refugee Convention specifically prohibits governments from discriminating against asylum claimants based on their means of arrival.
posted by embrangled at 1:59 AM on December 6, 2013 [19 favorites]


Those photos are pretty shocking, and I write that as someone who has worked in an immigrant detention centre.

That doesn't look like a holding centre run by a rich, developed country. It's a refugee camp with the barest level of provision. Nauru is a hot place. In December temperatures can hit 40 degrees Celsius.

It's one thing to offshore your detention centre from Woomera - a crappy decision IMHO, not least because it makes it so much harder for them to access legal advice and support . It's another to just fail on providing asylum seekers with the right level of quality of living.

But we know the reason: Australia is making a point that it does not want to be seen as a soft touch. In the first half of 2012 7,879 people lodged asylum applications in Australia. In the same period just 1,029 did the same in Japan, which offshores its immigrant detention centres to Thailand and is notoriously hard on asylum. For all of 2011 the numbers were 11,488 and 1,867 respectively. In 2010, 12,673 and 1,211. Over 2011/2, half of all protection visa applications from non irregular maritime arrivals to Australia came from five countries: China, India, Pakistan, Iran and Egypt (source).

At this point whether you see it as a matter or pride or responsibility that people actively choose your country over nearer ones because you are an open society, or whether you see it as a form of economic migration is the root of the disagreement.

But there shouldn't be any disagreement over how asylum seekers should be looked after and those conditions are unacceptable.
posted by MuffinMan at 2:48 AM on December 6, 2013 [7 favorites]


I see no evidence of the Playstations and flat screen televisions and pool tables we keep being told they have. Perhaps in one of those tiny tarped rooms?
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:51 AM on December 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is probably not a very fair expose of the conditions at the centre but it probably sends the kind of message Abbot's government is happy to send. The Guardian looks like it got a scoop and Abbot gets free international advertising.
posted by vicx at 4:47 AM on December 6, 2013


I'm reminded of the This American Life episode which featured Nauru (transcript here). tl;dr--the conditions in the camp are indeed pretty bad, and have been for quite some time.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:05 AM on December 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is probably not a very fair expose of the conditions at the centre

Why not?
posted by PMdixon at 5:44 AM on December 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Australia is making a point that it does not want to be seen as a soft touch. In the first half of 2012 7,879 people lodged asylum applications in Australia

Is it still the case that those arriving by plane rather than boat are not sent to an offshore facility, and (am I remembering this right?) are more likely to have their applications given at least provisional approval?
posted by rtha at 6:05 AM on December 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


You can only be so dirty if you can afford an airplane ticket.
posted by Naberius at 6:09 AM on December 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


this is just absolutely awful.
posted by rebent at 6:10 AM on December 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


I did a report about Nauru in elementary school. At the time, they were riding high on phosphate money, and had one of the highest per-capita incomes in the world. I haven't thought much about Nauru since then.

Reading the Wikipedia page now, though, it seems like Nauru's history since the first Westerner landed has pretty much been one big mega-bummer.
posted by box at 6:25 AM on December 6, 2013


Why not?

Frankly, it looks like exactly what I imagine a detention center on Nauru would look like. It's difficult to divine the actual deficiencies that make it a dangerous and dehumanizing place to be just from those photos.

What I think is interesting/disturbing is that Australia has a detention center on Nauru at all. The idea that asylum seekers need to be detained, at such a remote location, for any significant length of time, in reportedly such poor accommodations, with the addition of the thing being viewed as a bone being thrown to Nauru as a shit cherry on top, appears to be an unconscionable foul up by the powers that be.
posted by 2N2222 at 7:03 AM on December 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


The only thing that really seems bad about the conditions depicted in the photographs (and it is no small thing) is that people are living in close quarters in tents in an extremely hot and barren environment. Is there some relationship between those conditions and the riots in July that, according to the linked article, burned down 95 percent of the buildings in the detention center, including "new sleeping quarters worth tens of millions of dollars"?
posted by Dolukhanova at 7:28 AM on December 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Immigrant detention centres are places characterized by intense boredom and frustration, in my experience. Frustration with being locked up, frustration that they have been misled by traffickers, frustration with that gap between what they imagined happening and what is happening, and frustration with the often byzantine and prolonged workings of the asylum process, and its often arbitrary outcomes. This is what causes riots, rather than the quality of the conditions. It is a feature of these places.

There have been riots at Woomera and riots at detention centres in the UK like Yarl's Wood and Campsfield.

In addition, there is always the chance that among the overwhelming majority of normal refugees, you have a very small minority of people fleeing because they are wanted, or because the political patronage has changed and they are now accountable for crimes committed in the name of a previous cause or political master.
posted by MuffinMan at 8:34 AM on December 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


No air conditioning? Not even a single, communal cooling center? Brutal!

Is there a source of fresh water on the island? How about sprinklers or pools? And it definitely appears that they need to provide more shaded areas.

Find the bastards who approved/continue to approve of this and send them there for a month.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 4:27 PM on December 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Is it still the case that those arriving by plane rather than boat are not sent to an offshore facility, and (am I remembering this right?) are more likely to have their applications given at least provisional approval?

I believe so.
Morrison was on 7.30 this week and Leigh Sales asked him about that:
LEIGH SALES: It's still quite significant though. It was about 8,000 asylum seekers arriving by plane last year. Why do asylum seekers who arrive by plane get preferential treatment from the Government? Because they do have a prospect of resettlement here and onshore processing. Why, when we do have significant numbers coming by plane, are they treated differently to people who come via boat?

SCOTT MORRISON: Well several reasons, Leigh. The first thing is people aren't dying on planes coming to Australia. The second reason is that people are turning up on planes are turning up with valid documentation, they're turning up for a valid visa for entry into Australia, so they've legally entered Australia. They have passports and we are far better able to determine their claims if and when they make them.


No mention about the Burmese mother and child being separated though. I guess that was a thing last week.
posted by Mezentian at 6:17 PM on December 6, 2013


Find the bastards who approved/continue to approve of this and send them there for a month.

This. Walking in someones shoes can be quite the learning experience--unless you're a total unteachable asshole.
posted by BlueHorse at 1:01 PM on December 8, 2013


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