Pacific News Minute: Pacific Refugee Crisis

Jun 12, 2015

Credit Wikipedia Commons

Earlier this month, Australia relocated four refugees to Cambodia; the first, Canberra hopes of many to follow. Australia refuses entry to anyone who tries to come into the country illegally by sea and thousands have been sent to detention camps on small Pacific Islands. The only way out is to go back home, or accept relocation to Cambodia. Details from Neal Conan in the latest Pacific News Minute.  

There are two camps, one in the Pacific Island Nation of Nauru, the other on an atoll called Manus, which is part of Papua New Guinea. Doctors, aid workers and the few reporters able to get inside the camps say conditions are unsanitary, unhealthful and sometimes dangerous. Allegations include forced sex with guards, in exchange for food, cigarettes and drugs. The Australian government rejects the charges, but critics include the United Nations and the Royal Australian College of Physicians, which described conditions there as inhumane.  On July 1st a new law called the Australian Border Force Act takes effect, which makes it a crime for any immigration worker to disclose information about conditions at the camps.  Pediatrician David Isaacs, who spoke out after he worked at the camp in Nauru last year, told Radio New Zealand: “If I was to do that now, it seems I would face two years in prison. I'm absolutely appalled."

Of the other rich countries in the region, New Zealand accepts just 750 refugees a year and also refuses entry to boat people.  Japan took in a total of 11 in 2014.  Meanwhile the clock is ticking for the estimated 4,000 Rohingya boat people brought ashore to temporary camps in Thailand, Indonesia and remains unclear what, if anything, will be done for the thousands believed to still be at sea on rickety boats.