Bartlett challenges Vanstone to visit Nauru and talk with the families in detention

Australian Democrats’ Leader Senator Andrew Bartlett has called on Federal Immigration Minister, Amanda Vanstone, to visit Nauru and meet with the families she is keeping imprisoned there at taxpayers’ expense.

Senator Bartlett, who recently returned from a second visit to detainees on the island, told a refugee forum in Adelaide today that, “Australia is totally responsible for hundreds of people having been imprisoned on Nauru for well over two years, yet they are being ignored by our Government.”

“The vast majority of the 264 people who remain imprisoned indefinitely on Nauru have nowhere safe to return to and no certain future.

“Whilst some of them do not meet the strict definition of refugee, there is little doubt that for the vast majority it will not be safe for them to return home for the foreseeable future. Hundreds of people including many children should not be left in detention indefinitely just because it is politically inconvenient for the Government,” Senator Bartlett said.

“Minister Vanstone’s statements before the recent hunger strike that the detainees are ‘not Australia’s responsibility’ were a clear sign that the Government was prepared to let the families on Nauru rot, despite the millions of dollars which Australia continues to pay to keep them imprisoned and isolated.

“Senator Vanstone must acknowledge that these people are Australia’s responsibility and take personal responsibility for finding a solution to the situation. A first step would be to visit the camp that is costing Australians so much money and meet the asylum seekers first hand. After all, their fate is in her hands.

“The recent hunger strike showed the level of desperation. Whilst that situation is resolved for now, I have little doubt that there will be further unrest unless action is taken to resolve the situation.

“Two years is too long for anyone to be detained without charge or trial, especially the many children who have spent formative years in such a damaging environment,” Senator Bartlett said.

“Over 70 children still remain in detention in Nauru, and their despair is growing every day.

“When I visited Nauru in July 2003, I reported an ocean of despair and depression existed in the detention centre. After visiting again six months later and meeting with at least a third of the detainees, I am certain there will be a tragedy unless the Minister starts taking some responsibility for the untenable situation which her Government has created. She should start by visiting the scene of her Government’s crime.”

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