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Fri Nov 23, 2012, 04:11 PM

'Pacific solution' refugee camps condemned as 'grim' by rights group

'Pacific solution' refugee camps condemned as 'grim' by rights group

During the three months of the ‘Pacific Solution’, 7,000 asylum seekers have arrived

Kathy Marks
Friday 23 November 2012

They fled war, violence and torture at home, undertaking the perilous voyage to Australia in the hope of making new lives. Now, 400 men from the world's trouble spots are living 14 to a tent in sweltering conditions on the Pacific island of Nauru – with the prospect of spending five years there, separated from their families.

This is the reality of the Labor government's "Pacific Solution" for asylum-seekers, as described by an Amnesty International team which inspected the detention centre this week. "Conditions on Nauru are grim," Amnesty's Australian refugee co-ordinator, Graham Thom, told The Independent shortly after returning to Australia.

Though the first "boat people" were transferred to Nauru in mid-September, nine men are already on hunger strike, with one Kurdish man refusing food for 44 days to date. Another man tried to hang himself from a tent pole while Amnesty was visiting. Others have tried to commit suicide or have slashed themselves with knives. And two months on, processing of asylum claims has yet to begin.

Conditions on Manus Island, in Papua New Guinea – where the first batch of asylum-seekers, including four children, were sent this week – are understood to be little better. Even Ronnie Knight, the MP for Manus Island, warned that being confined there for five years would send people "stir crazy".


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