Nauru refugee camp conditions ‘squalid’: Ex-Australia customs chief
A former Australian Border Force chief has described witnessing squalid and slum-like conditions when he visited Canberra-run camps housing asylum-seekers and refugees on the remote Pacific island of Nauru.
Roman Quaedvlieg — sacked earlier this year over claims he helped his girlfriend get a job — tweeted on Thursday an eight-page, almost 4,000-word essay about the 24 hours he spent visiting the facilities.
It came as the annual Pacific Islands Forum summit wrapped up in Nauru — where press grilled Nauru’s leader about the camps — and as Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton faced pressure over personally intervening to help two European au pairs enter Australia.
Dutton and Quaedvlieg are both former police officers and have sparred in recent days as Dutton is scrutinised by a parliamentary inquiry. He has denied any wrongdoing.
Although he didn’t date his essay about the state of the Nauru camps, Quaedvlieg — who as border force chief would have been in charge of them — reportedly visited Nauru in 2015.
“My overall impression was reminiscent of the world’s slums,” Quaedvlieg wrote.
He said the single men’s camp was “jolting in its squalidness” and that he was approached by residents complaining about fears of being attacked by local gangs, and about the lack of food and job opportunities.
He alleged that there was prostitution, drugs and alcohol at the village, which he described as being like a prison.
The camp on Nauru — as well as another in Papua New Guinea that has since been closed after a local court ruled it was unconstitutional — has been criticised by rights groups for their poor conditions and long detention periods.
Under Canberra’s tough immigration policy, asylum-seekers who try to reach Australia by boat are either turned back or sent to remote Pacific camps.
The asylum-seekers — 182 men, 23 women and 14 children according to the latest Australian government figures — are housed in camps while they wait for their refugee applications to be processed.
The government has defended the policy, saying it has stopped the tide of boats and prevented refugees from drowning at sea on the treacherous journey.
Quaedvlieg wrote about how a female refugee self-immolated and was brought to a hospital in “veritable ruin” that “looked ramshackle and rickety”, and of her “primal screams emanating from the surgical ward” she was taken to.
“Everywhere around me I recorded disarming signs of the drudgery of an incarcerated population,” he wrote of the men’s quarters, adding that in the women’s section he sensed “sorry, ruination, lechery, fragmentation and alienation”.
Canberra has sought to send those recognised as refugees to third countries such as the United States, and more than 100 have been resettled there, according to reports.
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