Opening of Nauru refugee centre fails to stop boats arriving in Australia

03 October 2012


The opening of Australia's detention centre on Nauru has failed to stop asylum seekers from making the dangerous sea voyage towards Australian waters. The Australian government announced that it was to reopen the Nauru detention centre in August 2012. The first inmates were sent there on 14th September 2012.

On 26th September 2012, a group of 16 Sri Lankan men chose to return to Sri Lanka rather than be transported to Nauru where they might have remained for many months while their asylum applications were processed.

At the time, Australian MPs said that the men's decision to return to Sri Lanka cast doubt on the validity of their asylum claims. 'This is a sign that a lot of asylum seekers … are not genuine refugees', said Liberal MP Steve Ciobo.

Chris Bowen, the Australian immigration minister said that he believed that the decision of the men proved that the Nauru camp was having the desired effect of deterring asylum seekers. Since then, a further 28 men have agreed to return to Sri Lanka.

However, the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) has also revealed that 56 boats containing 3,421 asylum seekers have arrived in Australia since the camp on Nauru opened. There is no sign that the flow is slowing.

On 1st October 2012, the Afghan ambassador to Australia, Nasir Andisha, said that there was no sign yet that the recommencement of offshore processing on Nauru and on the Papua New Guinean island of Manus is deterring migrants from his country from making the trip to Australia. 'The trend so far shows that it doesn't have any effect…because the people keep coming.' Mr Andisha said that Afghan interest in settling in Australia had increased recently after the Australian government announced that it would increase its annual intake of asylum seekers to 20,000.

The Australian newspaper reported on 1st October 2012 that it had received information that the number of people travelling to Indonesia from Pakistan has fallen in recent weeks. It also reports that there has been no change in the numbers coming from Iran. People smugglers are telling potential customers that the Australian government is unlikely to be able to send them to Nauru because there are too many of them.

Last night three asylum seekers already on Nauru were held in a police cell after an incident at the detention camp.

There are now 150 people on Nauru, all men. The facility is planned to hold 1500 people when at capacity.

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