IOM in Australia and Nauru

09.Oct.02 - The following information is a summary from a TV broadcast Sarah MacDonald, "Australia's Pacific Solution", BBC 2, 29 Sept. 2002, plus BBC News, 17 Sept. 2001, Boat people arrive at Nauru. It is as yet the clearest and also most brutal example of the vicious politics of the IOM.

All of you may well remember the fate of 438 mainly Afghani refugees on board the Norwegian vessel TAMPA, rescued from their sinking boat. The Australian government has refused these men, women and children to step on the soil.

Instead, Australia introduced what is no called the 'Pacific Solution' and paid 30 million $ to the Republic of Nauru, a small island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, ecologically devastated from mining phosphat, to take over this boatload of unwanted human beings. A second group consists of 200 Iraqi refugees from other ships. This trade was facilitated by the IOM and its Australien director Mark Getchell, which acted as a migration crisis rapid response force. Human Rights Watch accuses the Australian government of a breach of the Refugee Convention, a violation that is facilitated by the IOM. In Nauru, the Afghan refugees refused to leave the boat, IOM director Getchell was flown in by an Navy helicopter, in the end force has been used my the marines.

There are two camps on Nauru, one for the Afghan and another one for the Iraqi refugees. Topside Camp is situated in the middle of the island where all vegetation is gone, a terrible reminiscence of the Woomera camp. Both camps have been build and are run and staffed by the IOM, its officers get very high wages for this kind of work in a "Pacific prison", its senior representative in this camp is Cy Winter. Initially there was no water, no electricity and no sanitation. When the refugees first saw these camps they refused to leave the busses, a refugee says, "they hit us and they give nothing to us, not to eat, not to sleep. We are under arrest since one month". The camp is surrounded by barbed wire and secured by guards (Australien Federal Police and Australian Chubb Security). The inmates are not allowed to leave the camps. Those who protest about their ordeal are punished with solitary confinement. The conditions for the 650 refugees, amongst them 129 children, are "hellish, ...a psychological trauma" (Amnesty International). No journalists and no lawyers are allowed to enter the island. One undercover journalist has been violently attacked by the IOM director Cy Winter.
Only a few refugees have meanwhile been granted asylum, but that does not improve their position, they and those rejected are in fact indefinitely interned, there is no limit to they detention (Simon Rice, Australian Lawyer for Human Rights). After one visit from Amnesty International the island is now closed to the outside world. It for refugees what Guantanamo is for captured Taliban. The only escape offered is the IOM's return scheme.

In this instance the IOM is involved and actually implements the most inhuman, cruel and criminal policy against migrants one can think of. It is an active collaborator, its staff act as prison wards. The film shows that they behave as a kind of a colonial power, with all the arrogance and violence that goes with it.

We hope to soon get a copy of the film and also to contact the journalist and introduce the campaign against the IOM to her.

This organisation must be stopped!!!

Horror conditions for refugees on Nauru exposed

From the Green Left Weekly, August 7, 2002

The Refugee Action Collective promoted its 'no detention' model for processing refugees at a public meeting attended by more than 150 people at Brunswick Town Hall on July 30. The racism and inhumanity of Australia's immigration detention system was graphically illustrated by the eyewitness account of life in the immigration detention centres on Nauru provided by journalist Kate Durham.

Journalists and lawyers wanting to visit the camps there are denied visas to Nauru, so Durham and BBC journalist Sarah McDonald travelled there undercover.

The Nauru camps are run by the Switzerland-based International Organisation for Migration (IOM), which Durham described as a 'shadowy mercenary organisation', which is contracted by governments world-wide to carry out forced deportations. She explained that many of the refugees had already encountered this sinister organisation in Pakistan.

Much of Nauru is a barren and toxic moonscape, devastated by a century of Anglo-Australian phosphate mining. The Topside Camp, where between 700 and 1200 refugees are imprisoned, is built on this. There is not a single tree for shade.

Durham explained how the white rock and phosphate pollution intensifies the tropical heat. This is why the playground equipment that IOM proudly shows off to the media has never been used. Any child who played there for any length of time would collapse from heat exhaustion.

When the refugees first arrived, Durham said, there were severe water and food shortages. Water is now imported from the Solomon Islands and food from Brisbane. At first, there were insufficient buildings in the camp. Refugees were forced to live underneath buildings in a desperate attempt to keep out of the sun. Sanitary conditions were so bad that disease had become endemic.

Durham slammed the officials from the office of the of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees on Nauru as 'carrion feeders', who enjoyed whites-only parties hosted by IOM, lived and worked in their hotels and rarely visited the refugees they were supposed to be working for.

Psychologist Lyn Bender also spoke. Bender has publicised the horrific conditions at the Woomera detention centre where she once worked. She commented that Durham's description of Nauru made her realise that there was somewhere worse than Woomera.

Bender described similar, if slightly less brutal, conditions at the Woomera centre. She had tried to alert the world to 12-year-old Montazar Baktiyari's suicide attempts before he and his brother Alamdar came to world-wide attention with their escape and request for asylum at the British consulate in Melbourne.

Bender, who was working at Woomera during the Easter protests, stressed that these and other protests have given the detainees hope. She said that she did not believe that the Australian government's abuse of refugees was due to the inherent racism of the Australian people. Bender condemned the major parties' bipartisan vilification of refugees which has made the federal government's racist lies more credible.

Housing minister in the Victorian Labor government Bronwyn Pike told the meeting that immigration was a federal issue, so her government could not be held responsible. She acknowledged that there was concern at the federal ALP's support for mandatory detention of refugees. 'I share a bit of that concern myself', she assured the audience. Pike's attempts to sidestep Labor's complicity in Australia's treatment of refugees provoked a lively debate.

Tony Dewberry from the Refugee Action Collective explained that the 'no detention' model was the system used in Australia until the early 1990s, in which tens of thousands of refugees were admitted and lived in open hostels. Since then, the Coalition and Labor parties have adopted policies advocated by Pauline Hanson's One Nation.

Pamela Curr from the Victorian Greens also presented a passionate denunciation of the cruelty and dishonesty of the government's detention system.