MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Nauru: A double blot on Australia

Published by MAC on 2003-12-19


Nauru: A double blot on Australia

The South Pacific island of Nauru was ruthlessly dug up by the Phosphates Commission, comprising Australia, Britain and New Zealand, at a time when the three were part of the British empire. All but a small portion of the land was made virtually uninhabitable.

The island was also the refuge sought recently by hundreds of asylum seekers whose treatment since, by the Australian government, has outraged human rights campaigners inside and outside the country (not to mention the refugee families themselves)

Asylum seekers in the Nauru Detention camp have just entered their second week of a hunger strike, with 36 people participating. But Australia's Immigration Minister has refused responsibility saying they "are not Australia's problem", despite Australia establishing the detention camp as part of its so-called 'Pacific Solution' for refugee and migration control. Australia also currently holds 90 children under detention in Nauru and worldwide online petitions 'To End Detention of Children and Separation of Families in Australia', have attracted over 45,000 signatures.

The savagest irony is that, even while the asylum seekers are being so outrageously treated, the Nauruans have come to depend on the subsidies provided by Australia for that detention. As these are withdrawn, so the islanders face a lack of basic resources for survival.

Yet, following the compensation they were paid after a settlement in 1968 they became - for a short period - the nation with the highest per capita income n the world. Those funds were splurged in a relatively short period of time - on running a redundant national airline, the world's biggest single fleet of Rolls Royces and a London West End show which bombed shortly after takeover.

Now the Australian government says it might look for another island on which the Nauruans could settle (not likely), grant them Australain citizenship and a portion of Australia itself (not likely either), or simply continue the grant aid.

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