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Pacific News Minute: Australians Get Different Reports on Detention Camps Before National Elections

Takver / Flickr
Takver / Flickr
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In the run up to national elections, Australians got two sharply contrasting reports on off-shore detention camps this week.  A trauma expert and psychologist described conditions at Manus Island and Nauru as an atrocity, while a tabloid television crew reported that, for the most part, refugees are well fed, safe and well housed. We have details from Neal Conan in the Pacific News Minute.

Caroline Marcus, a reporter for Channel Nine's A Current Affair, got rare access to the camp on Nauru and presented a more positive view of a facility that one prominent critic called a hellhole.  Migrants she interviewed did report attacks and harassment, she did show the moldy, crowded tents many live in, but she also showed new housing with television, microwave, air conditioning and refrigerator. In an episode promoted as one that would stun Australia, Marcus interviewed Nauru's Justice Minister, David Adeang, who told her that migrants certainly live better than most Nauruans and, quote - "There is not much to complain about."

Refugee advocates protested that she presented a sanitized picture - she said there were no restrictions.

A very different image emerged from interviews Paul Stevenson gave to Australian media.  A trauma expert who worked with survivors of terrorist bombs and tsunamis, Stevenson said the Australian government is deliberately inflicting the worst trauma he's ever seen.  He made more than a dozen visits to the camps in Nauru and Manus Island for two or three weeks at a time to counsel the private company guards who work there.  "With no control," he told the Guardian , “migrants are ‘absolutely desperate.’" He added that boredom, demoralization and hopelessness lead to fights, self harm, a lot of domestic violence, issues of sexual abuse and abuse of children.  Stevenson is an independent candidate for Australia's Senate, with, he said, little or no chance of winning a seat.

Over 36 years with National Public Radio, Neal Conan worked as a correspondent based in New York, Washington, and London; covered wars in the Middle East and Northern Ireland; Olympic Games in Lake Placid and Sarajevo; and a presidential impeachment. He served, at various times, as editor, producer, and executive producer of All Things Considered and may be best known as the long-time host of Talk of the Nation. Now a macadamia nut farmer on Hawaiʻi Island, his "Pacific News Minute" can be heard on HPR Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.
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