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Issue #1678      March 25, 2015

Refugees attacked on Nauru

An Iranian refugee couple was hospitalised last week after being attacked by rock-throwing Nauruans. Around 10pm, Nauru time, the married couple was riding their motorcycle past the Menon Hotel when they were hit by a shower of rocks.

The motorcycle crashed after the male driver was knocked unconsciousness when one rock struck him on the head as they rode past the hotel.

The husband had regained consciousness a couple of hours later in the hospital and was able to talk to other refugees. The full scale of his injuries and those of his wife are not known.

The attack is the latest in a series of physical attacks by locals on refugees. In a similar incident last November, an Iranian refugee was blinded in one eye after being hit by one of the rocks thrown by locals.

Ten days ago, a six-year-old asylum seeker lost two teeth when a Nauruan guard threw rocks at children inside the family camp.

Following protests last week, the refugee camp was stoned by around 25 Nauruan locals. “We fear for the safety of the refugees on Nauru. There is no sign that the police take these attacks seriously. In some cases, the police do not even come to the scene of the attack,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.

“We fear that anti-refugee feeling in the Nauruan community is being encouraged by the Nauruan government’s use of force to repress peaceful protests. There is a minority already willing to physically attack refugees.

“Nauru is a hell-hole for asylum seekers and is unsafe for refugees. Australia’s offshore policy of dumping asylum seekers on Nauru has created an impossible situation. The refugees have no future; Nauru has said they will not allow resettlement. But Australia is paying tens and tens of millions to the Nauruan government to keep them on the island.”

On March 11 up to 300 refugees, women, men and children, from all refugee camps across Nauru defied the Nauruan government and police attempts to ban refugee protests and staged a peaceful protest.

The protest was held at the Nibok camp on the western side of the island, as plain-clothes police and Connect staff looked on.

The protest came just one week since Nauruan police staged mass arrests on the island in a bid to stifle the campaign of non-cooperation being waged by the refugees. The Nauruan government had distributed notice on Nauru warning that protesters could be punished by up to three years jail.

One hundred and eighty-three people including children were arrested on March 4, and held for 24 hours without food and without water in some cells.

“We have just one slogan,” refugees on the island told the Refugee Action Coalition, “ ‘Freedom and Justice’.”

Banners at the rally appealed for the UN to intervene on Nauru. The UNHCR has condemned Australia’s offshore processing regime, while the report of the UN Committee Against Torture found Australia exposed asylum seekers to “torture and inhumane treatment”.

Conditions on Nauru have also been condemned by the Australian Human Rights Commission and by medical staff recently on the island.

Next article – Failure to address ongoing workloads

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