Between a rock and a hard place…in the wreckage of ‘the fair go’

November 21st, 2014  |  Published in Asylum; Refugees

Fleeing danger over treacherous seas, ‘welcomed’ with hostility, banished to further danger, ‘resettled’ in impoverished countries…the refugee experience in twenty-first century no-care no-responsibility Australia.


For the record

There are two recent instalments of this long-running epic I want to put on record. One comes from those living the refugee experience on Nauru; the other involves Nauruan locals; both highlight the dangers for refugees of looking to Australia for protection.

Letters from within the refugee experience

Letters from those living the refugee experience on Nauru have shaped an article in The Saturday Paper. Martin McKenzie-Murray writes of “horrific conditions” including the following examples:

  1. Sexual assault of an asylum seeker while in hospital;
  2. Unaccompanied minors being physically assaulted by locals, one boy wreck2hospitalised. “They are much bigger and older than us,” a young man reports. “They are drunk all day and all night. They say things like, ‘You f**ing Muslim, get the fu*k out of our country’ and ‘You motherf***ers, I will do whatever I like. There is nothing you can do about it. The Australian government can do nothing for you.’ ”
  3. Women being sexually intimidated by security guards who were meant to be providing safe escort, one guard “holding his sex organ and imitating some sex actions, directed towards us”;

Immigration Minister, Scott Morrison, informed The Saturday Paper:

“I have been advised the allegation [of sexual assault] has been referred to the Nauruan police. However the department has advised there is currently no evidence at this stage to support the allegations.”

[Read: No one is looking for evidence and reports are likely to get ‘lost’. Evidence might even be destroyed. The women involved in the third situation above were told there was “no evidence” of the guards’ behavior even though it would have been captured on closed-circuit cameras. The “behaviour team” also claimed they had not received the complaint, although the women had made a report to their camp supervisor.
THIS is the meaning of “no evidence” in Morrison-speak, and he is in a position to define the terms.]

What are the Nauruan police going to do?
Nothing, I expect.
And Morrison knows that.

Can Morrison get away with this grotesque fiction about “no evidence”?
Quite possibly, based on other examples of treacherously slippery footwork and previous failure to address allegations of sexual assault on Nauru (click here).

Is there no safety for these people – even in hospital?
Apparently not.
(See 15 November facebook posting about the article by McKenzie-Murray embedded as comment.)


Letter from the youth of Nauru to ‘resettled’ refugees

Conditions are no better for those who have been ‘resettled’ outside the camp.

Below is a letter, written from the youth of Nauru to refugees, warning of “worse situation for refugees” if they keep “walking around in the island”. I have transcribed it verbatim to improve legibility (click here to see the original).

This letter, distributed inside and outside the detention camp, made its way into Australian emails from reputable sources on 17 November, and has since been discussed by The Conversation, The Guardian, and SBS News.

Note particularly the references to refugees as “rubbish”, taking jobs from the locals, turning locals into slaves, taking their women, and not fitting in to conservative Nauruan monoculture.


We the youth of Republic of Nauru inform refugees and bring forward some key issues created because of this resettlement programme by the Government of Australia and our corrupt Government.

Among lots of problems we have in our community because of this resettlement program the one big highlighted problem we can see is that Refugees are taking over all our job opportunities and spreading over our small congested community, making our lives miserable as we can see clearly in near future refugees will be the leading and ruling people and will make local community people their slaves, and this is what we cannot see and tolerate that Australia Government headache (refugees) making our lives crashing and bringing down to the ground. So we warn all the refugees working around in different sectors to quit the jobs and stay back of our community and also stop walking around in the island.

wreck9Second big and very important issue is that Nauru is a conservative country, it is not a multicultural country so resettling refugees means that inducing different culture from different countries and we think that we are never been ready for that but the mistake and wrong decision of few corrupt people from Nauru Government putting the lives, culture, customs, values of Nauru local people in danger. Our women, girls and teenagers are interested in refugees because of their skin, colour, face and handsomeness. Our wives, sisters and daughters are in contact with refugees and having affairs with them and we can never see our women having fun with refugees and neglecting locals.

So we warn Refugees to Go Away of our country and just to hell with all your concerns if not, get ready for the bad things happening and waiting ahead.

We warn our Corrupt Government as well as Australian Government to take away your rubbish (refugees) and leave our country, otherwise there can be worse situation for refugees as you can see these days. Our group network is working and keeps watching on all the activities of the refugees.

We Appeal our youth and locals to get united and join us in this mission and face the reality as we see some big problems that might put our country, our people, our children, our culture in danger.



[NOTE: Subsequent messages from refugee advocates indicate that refugees have been resigning from their jobs because of the threats, one being told: “Next time if you come to work again we kill you.”
“The police protect the locals, not the refugees,” one man told the Refugee Action Coalition. “Refugee status is worthless.”
According to SBS News, the Nauru officials are denying any “increased risk” to refugees, describing the letter as part of a “campaign of misinformation”.]

Australia redefining itself

When I first posted about this letter on the 2020socialjustice facebook page (two posts, 17 and 18 November, embedded as comments) some of the responses reflected hope that the Australian government might yet salvage the situation. I seriously doubt it. Minister Morrison has passed the buck to Nauru; Nauru is not about to pick it up; the United Nations says Australia is legally responsible (click here).

The myth of the ‘fair go’ in the ‘lucky country’ looks pretty tattered to me. I think we need to rebuild a more expansive vision that extends beyond our borders and embraces universal ideas of social justice for all.

Your comments are welcome…Joan Beckwith




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2 comments on “Between a rock and a hard place…in the wreckage of ‘the fair go’”

  1. Susan Bennett says:

    The poor souls must be terrified.

    • I think your comment pretty much sums it up, Susan Bennett. One of the articles does talk about people too scared to leave their houses, and these are people with histories of fear and trauma behind them. Their prospects for the future are grim…Joan Beckwith.

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