Meanwhile, on Nauru …..

In amongst the relaxations for many of us of the Easter weekend and the current debate about the fate of asylum seekers and refugees in Australia, Michael Gordon has done an article in The Age reminding us of people the Government would like us to forget – the 54 asylum seekers marooned on Nauru.

I’ve visited Nauru twice and met many of the people still stuck there. It is a terrible situation with great suffering and great expense and no justification. Putting people in detention on Nauru has no more impact in deterring asylum seekers than detaining them in Australia, despite Government talk of the ‘success’ of the Pacific Solution. The real purpose is two-fold: (a) to put them outside our legal system, in our version of Guantanemo Bay, and (b) to put them out of sight and out of mind, where they cannot be visited and cannot tell their stories effectively. Sadly, this part of the Government’s strategy has worked.

This is why articles such as the one by Michael Gordon are so important. He has done a few very powerful and effective pieces on the Nauru asylum seekers over the last year or two – his use of straightforward and comprehensive facts means he doesn’t need to rely on emotional rhetoric, as the facts are sufficient to draw out the emotional responses.

UPDATE: Also, click here for a reminder of the number of children who have spent Easter in migration detention, including 6 on Nauru. The site also includes information on viable and realistic (and cheaper) alternatives to detention.

One of those children is baby Amy, a one year old who was born in detention. I met Amy and her parents, Tran Toan, and Pham Thi Phuong Thuy, along with most of the other Vietnamese detainees, when I visited Christmas Island last November (a visit I wrote about here.) The asylum seekers on Christmas Island, including 10 children, are as forgotten as those on Nauru.

Amy had her case considered by the Refugee Review Tribunal (via phone link-up) while I was on the island and she was found to be a refugee. However, her parents’ claim was unsuccessful, so baby Amy remains in detention waiting for the Minister to use her powers to grant a visa. Their story is reported in West Australia’s Sunday Times. I should be going to Christmas Island again next month as part a visit by the Parliamentary Committee on Migration. I would hope by then the Minister will have acted, and I won’t be meeting Amy’s parents there again when I visit.

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  1. Sometimes I can be quite thick. It never occurred to me that there would still be detainees on Nauru. Thanks for the headsup on this hideous situation.

  2. This may be a really dumb question but how can the parents be found not to be refugees when their baby is?
    Surely what ever makes Amy a refugee applies to her parents as well?

  3. Actually, that’s an extremely good question. It shows how our migration laws are far less coherent and fair than the Government likes to pretend that they are. I could go on at great length about a range of similarly absurd examples. However, in relation to the specific case of baby Amy, my understanding is that the parents’ case was considered by a different member of the Refugee Review Tribunal to the one who considered Amy’s case.
    Also, I think part of Amy’s case was the specific risk in Vietnam to children whose parents are viewed as dissidents – thee children may be more at risk of being taken or being trafficked, which technically is a different risk to what the parents face. However, even if you could legally justify a technical difference, Amy obviously can’t be left here while her parents are sent back.
    I believe all the Xmas Island asylum seekers who have been successful so far had the same Tribunal member (who was also the one who heard Amy’s case), although that person also rejected some, whereas the other Tribunal members who heard cases rejected the lot. That in itself raises questions, as the Vietnamese on Xmas Island are basically from the one extended group.
    Also coverage of this story at
    and here (which also details another family being split by immigration laws),10117,12664458-28101,00.html

  4. What’s the point of having a Tribunal if cases are considered and decided on by individual members?
    And if Amy is a refugee because she is at risk because her parents are dissidents doesn’t that mean then that her parents are also at risk because they are dissidents – so also refugees?
    I understand the concern that Amy might be at risk if being taken or trafficked but isn’t the risk of any sort of child abuse likely to be greater if she is seperated from her parents, no matter what country she is in?

  5. Yes, that’s true Floss.
    Leaving aside whether or not the Tribunal got it right in assessing the refugee claims of Amy’s parents, there is now clearly a strong humanitarian case for the parents to stay – even if they don’t fit the specific criteria of a refugee (which is narrower than is sometimes portrayed).
    Unlike many other western countries, Australia doesn’t have a separate humanitarian for people who claim seek asylum onshore but are assessed at not meeting the strict definition of the Refugee Convention. People have to rely on the Minister excerising their power of discretion – a power that simply requires a view that granting a visa would be in the public interest, but has no legal requirement to be uses and which cannot be appealed against if they don’t use it.
    This one looks like a pretty cut and dried case that the Minister would intervene on, but you can never be sure, and it has taken two months so far without a decision.

  6. You won’t meet Amy & Mum & Dad on Christmas Island…NEWSFLASH

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