Pacific News Minute: Despair Rises as U.S. Refuses Resettlement for Refugees in Nauru

May 17, 2018

Nauru Detention Center
Credit Global Panorama / Flickr

As U.S. officials continue the slow process of resettlement for refugees in Australia’s off-shore detention camps, two incidents this month illustrate the despair of those still waiting. We have more from Neal Conan, in today’s Pacific News Minute.

This week, The Guardian Australia reported on the case of an Iranian woman named Fatemah and her 17-year-old son.

Like many others, they’ve languished for five years in the notorious camp in Nauru after being picked up at sea, trying to reach Australia. Fatemah waited 18 months for critical heart surgery, but refused to be separated from her son, who is described as suicidal. Finally, both were flown to Taiwan where the operation took place and where both were also treated for depression.

A psychiatrist found that the son’s mental condition was caused by his detention, but, against psychiatric advice, eight Australian Border Force officers picked up the mother and son in Taipei earlier this week and flew both back to Nauru.

In a video interview last week, Fatemah told The Guardian that her son said, “Let’s attempt suicide together.” She said he believes the only way to freedom is death. She also said that her son was told that he and his mother would be resettled in the United States, but it appears that all refugees from Iran and Somalia are being refused for resettlement – in line with President Trump’s immigration ban.

Aerial view of Nauru
Credit U.S. Department of Energy's Atmospheric Radiation Measurement Program /

Last week, Ian Rintoul of the Refugee Action Coalition said an Iranian woman attempted suicide in Nauru after her application was denied. Afghans, Rohingya and Pakistanis have been accepted, but Rintoul says there appears to be no future for hundreds of Iranians and Somalis.