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Issue #1687      June 3, 2015

Nauruan police admit attack

Nauruan police have finally admitted that an Iranian asylum seeker was savagely attacked on May 16. The 23 year-old female Iranian asylum seeker had been stripped, seriously bashed and robbed. A sexual assault has not been confirmed, and the police have not been able to interview the victim.

But after three days of denials, in the face of growing anger and the women’s protest, the Nauruan police finally back-flipped and admitted the obvious.

A group of police attending a protest (May 19) at Beach House, announced that they did accept that the Iranian woman had been attacked.

“We will find and catch the people who did this,” the police told the protest.

But finally admitting the obvious is cold comfort for refugees. When refugee women asked about their safety – police told them to “look after yourselves”.

It is clear that without the protest, there would not have been any police response.

But it was more than the protesters got inside Beach House from the boss of Connect, the Australian funded service providers. Connect had shrugged off the attack, saying all they would do is pass their question to those who are in charge.

“The Connect response was a disgrace and the police admission is a case of too little, too late,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition. “Too many complaints have been ignored. The attackers act with impunity, knowing they will never be pursued by the police.

“The Nauruan police are both unwilling and unable to protect refugees from attacks. Indeed the police themselves have been responsible for attacking refugees.”

Those responsible for the attacks are free to taunt and terrify the refugees. Nauru is too small for refugees to avoid those who are responsible.

In an attempt to cover up the abuse of asylum seekers and refugees on Nauru, the government has recently shut down Facebook and introduced laws banning free speech and the right to assembly.

“But the truth is out,” said Rintoul, “Nauru is unsafe. This attack adds to the revelations that are emerging from the Senate enquiry into the Moss report of sexual and physical abuse on Nauru.”

Meanwhile, the Australian government must provide the urgent humanitarian assistance needed by the up to 8,000 Rohingyan asylum seekers in boats, at risk, in the Malacca Straits, says the Refugee Action Coalition.

“The Australian government is playing with asylum seekers’ lives,” said Ian Rintoul. “It is suddenly obvious that offering ‘turnback’ advice to Malaysia and Indonesia cannot save lives at sea, but only endanger them.

“The boats must be welcome in Indonesia and Malaysia, and Australia. Australia must immediately lift its ban on accepting UNHCR refugees from Indonesia and offer Rohingyan refugees safe passage to Australia. An international rescue effort can guarantee that no lives are lost.”

The Australian navy that patrols within hours’ steaming time of the Malacca Straits should have been providing search and rescue assistance and ensuring that they can get safely to land. Every day and every hour that passes without that assistance puts more asylum seekers’ lives in danger.

In other emergencies, such as the earthquake in Nepal or the tsunami in Aceh, the Australian government offers aid and material assistance; but when it comes to asylum seekers’ lives – the government is offering only dangerous rhetoric.

“It is obvious that Australia’s policy of turning back asylum boats from Indonesia and Sri Lanka has created a dangerous precedent in the region, and turned asylum seekers into political footballs. Asylum seeker boats turned away from Indonesia and Malaysia are also at risk of being turned back by Australia.

“Australia’s turnback policy has always been a ‘go die somewhere else’ policy and that is exactly what’s playing out in the Malacca Straits. The rhetoric of blaming people smugglers is a shabby excuse to deny assistance to those in desperate need. The whole world knows the Rohingyans are victims of ethnic cleansing,” said Rintoul.

To its credit, Indonesia has offered support to around 600 Rohingyan asylum seekers who have landed in Aceh. But to the shame of the Abbott government, foreign aid to Indonesia was cut by 40 percent, even as the crisis unfolded.

Meanwhile Europe has announced a policy of proportionally sharing asylum seekers arriving from Africa or rescued in the Mediterranean, among participating European countries.

“It has never been more obvious that Abbott’s slogan of ‘stopping the boats’ is a costly sham that costs lives. The government could have saved the budget and saved lives by scrapping offshore processing and its monstrous Border Force ministry,” said Rintoul.

Next article – This can’t be right

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