Nauru - Governments normalising racism while people suffer and die - "there is the smell of death here"

Gerry Georgatos
The veils and layers of racism are myriad – a trickle of humanity flees from persecution and horrific conditions, from civil strife, to our shores and Australian Governments react with racism, fall into the trap of justifying their racist actions, deeds and words and then normalise the racism and stereotype peoples.

I was in Sydney recently and per chance crossed paths with an inebriated Department of Immigration and Citizenship officer who works in the interviewing and assessment of visa applications to peoples and extended family members “from high risk countries” – and I never heard a more inadvertently racist person – does DIAC employ people in pursuit of some form of compliance? Similarly as SERCO within the lucrative network of Detention Centres they manage and operate they selectively employ people from impoverished or struggle street backgrounds and relatively low levels of education and I argue in fair comment with the express purpose of securing a certain unfettered compliance.


On October 14 a huge protest on Nauru followed a breakdown of communication between DIAC officials and detained Asylum Seekers. An angry engagement followed the next day when the DIAC officials allegedly took a very stand-offish position rather than respecting the basic rights of our Asylum Seekers.

Horrific statements by officials to Asylum Seekers such as they have the right to return to ‘where they came from’ should be prohibited – this is in conflict with the Migration Act and UN protocols and conventions we are party to as a nation, and it is coercion, discrimination and racism to proffer these hurtful and powerfully abusive statements.

Furthermore, no matter the subterfuge of our Government’s claims that Sri Lanka is ‘safe’ or that regions of Afghanistan are relatively safe – this is not so – Sri Lanka remains dangerous for Tamils and for anyone else its Government deems ‘subversive’ – including journalists. Afghanistan remains dangerous for people at all times – tell it otherwise to Malala or in terms of various persecution in Iran well let us remind ourselves of Soraya, or in terms of parts of Iraq and Pakistan let us remind ourselves of the continuing death toll from unnatural causes and civil strife.

On October 17 and 18 Asylum Seekers on Nauru broke down into protests, with near 300 Iranians, Iraqis, Afghanis and Tamils calling for processing of their applications to at long last commence rather than the incarcerating predicament that they are languishing within.

There are reports that Asylum Seekers are living squalid, in unhygienic conditions – they are being told to lump it or 'leave' – “to behave” – medical attention is not being flagged, well we are used to these reports from Detention Centres Australia-wide. There is the fear of an influenza outbreak in the tent camp prison at Nauru.

Conditions in the Nauru Detention camp are worse than ever before – a shanty town of tents, high density living in squalid conditions.

Mr Tony Abbott’s claim that under a Coalition Government Asylum Seekers detained at Nauru will be held for at least five years (in effect the equivalent of prescribed prison sentence), rest assured for some who will be expected to remain imprisoned five years in these conditions that it will be a death sentence. The Asylum Seekers know this.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen’s visit to Nauru decimated the spirits of the detained Asylum Seekers – he told them that it would be at least eight months before any personnel would arrive to begin processing their applications. Following this there was a suicide attempt. After Mr Bowen’s eight month minimum wait for claim processes to commence, our Asylum Seekers broke down and many feared it would be even longer. Some guards have allegedly told them that they believe it will be even longer and to prepare themselves "to be there for years.”

Thus far there have been half a dozen self-harms and two suicide attempts which DIAC should have the propriety to confirm.

Mr Abbott’s five year prison sentence threat shocked the detained Asylum Seekers. Word of this spread through the camp and generated dismay and angst and the call for protests – and this irresponsible threat by Mr Abbott will ensure a rise in self harms and suicide attempts.

The Nauru detained Asylum Seekers are breaking down from now – the conditions at this tent city prison are dissimilar to mainland Detention Centres where at least they are promised one thing after another, even if it is false hope or the buying of time, despite the evident horrific delays and languish. At Nauru they are being told straight from the beginning of their torment of their obvious incarceration and the horror wait, and while in the predicament of high density shanty town living conditions and deprivation strife conditions without essential goods and services.

Many of us were tragically correct with our warnings of detention centre deaths here on the mainland and I can assure if the Government and DIAC persist with the Nauru detention camp in its current state of affairs, and the ill-manner of various conduct by various layers of personnel and Departmental management, there will be more deaths alone at Nauru than there have been in all the Detention Centres combined Australia-wide.

Reports from Asylum Seekers on Nauru inform of ill health, limited medical attention, an aversion by personnel to flag medical attention, of sweaty tents, squalor, outbreaks of various illness, quarantine for the virulently ill. The conditions are worse than in yesteryear.

There will be trauma, multiple traumas, meltdowns into various depressions and various clinical disorders – acute and chronic. They need on site physicians, specialist health professionals, clinical psychologists and psychosocial counsellors.

The distress continues this very day, and protests by and large shall continue, and as expected under the banner of public relations public knowledge shall be suppressed where possible by DIAC - the news media filtered what it can report - till as such times riots are the last resort for the bastion of human hope. An en masse hunger strike is being considered to bring shine the international light on Australia's Nauru camp and on the Australian Government.

A letter is being drafted by Asylum Seekers to be passed on by them to the UNHCR complaining of the conditions and the maltreatment alleged at the camp. They live in the forlorn hope that the UNHCR can intervene.

Asylum Seekers detained at Nauru believe they will be there for years and many of them will die in the Nauru based camp.

Contaminant illnesses, outbreaks of diseases, grievous suffering, suicides and deaths, riots will be the by-product of our contemporary witness of racism – and packaged and branded by the Australian Government.

One Asylum Seeker said that he camp is reminiscent of the detention camps in the north-east of Sri Lanka, and “the smell of death is here and the same.”

Gerry Georgatos - 0430 657 309
PhD researcher Australian Custodial Systems & Australian Deaths in Custody

Human Rights Alliance -

Human Rights Alliance convenor Gerry Georgatos called for a Senate inquiry into asylum seeker deaths at detention centres.

"These centres are inducing trauma, multiple trauma, self-harm, suicide and multiple suicide attempts, clinical disorders both acute and chronic," he said in a statement.

"Unless the commonwealth acts promptly with due regard to the rights of our asylum seekers we believe that there will be en masse riots, unnecessary suffering and trauma, and the loss of further lives."
THERE are concerns for the mental health of asylum seekers detained on Nauru's processing centre, after three men harmed themselves in the facility in as many days.
The Refugee Action Coalition has voiced shock at how quickly instances of attempted suicide and self-harm are occurring at the reopened offshore refugee processing centre on Nauru.

Australia has already sent more than 300 asylum seekers to Nauru.



Having worked at the camp on Nauru before it was previously shut down I speak from experience of what I witnessed. Mostly the boat people are financial refugees not legitimate asylum seekers. Many of them have left wives and children behind and worry about the welfare of their families while they themselves are absent, I don't see that reminding them they are free to go home is a bad thing. While I was working on Nauru, one refugee chose to go home to his family, he then applied to come to Australia through more legitimate channels and he was accepted into Australia while the other boat people he had initially traveled with were still stuck on Nauru. That is the message we want to send, don't come by leaky boat, apply through legal channels.
If the refugees are currently living in squalid conditions, they choose to make it that way, the army personnel on Nauru setting up the camp would be living in tents the same as the refugees and they would be keeping their living area clean and tidy. While I don't expect army discipline from boat people, when you have nothing to do all day other than show up for meal times it is not much to ask that you keep your living space clean and tidy.

What crap, they were refugees but above all they were innocent human beings being illegally tortured for political gain.


More than 300 asylum seekers on Nauru staged another protest Sunday
(21 October) afternoon calling for refugee processing to begin
immediately and for closure of the Nauru detention centre (see
statement below).

The protest on Nauru was timed to coincide with a protest in Melbourne
calling for an end to offshore processing. During the protest, the
asylum seekers called the UN to draw attention to their situation.

The asylum seekers are very worried about moves to intimidate
different groups inside the detention centre. Australian immigration
officials are holding separate meetings with asylum seekers of
different nationalities.

One of the Iranian asylum seekers has been subjected to intense
surveillance and seems to have a guard or Nauru police permanently
watching him. “They even follow me to the toilet,” he told the Refugee
Action Coalition.

“There is an urgent need for independent human rights observers to be
stationed on Nauru. The Australian government is using its ‘no
advantage’ offshore processing policy to create intolerable condition
on Nauru,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action

“The government is also deliberately stalling refugee processing both
in Nauru and Australian detention centre. There are thousands of
people now in Australian detention centres, that the government knows
it cannot send to Nauru or Manus Island, yet they have been left in

“The uncertainty is a form of mental torture. It is precisely this
uncertainty that makes detention centres ‘factories of mental
illness’. The government should begin processing refuge claims, here
and on Nauru, immediately.”

For more information contact Ian Rintoul mob 0417 275 713

Statement from Nauru, Sunday 21 October:

Asylum seekers Nauru
To whom it may concern

The government of Australia and human rights [supporters]

There is a big difference between criminal and asylum seekers, but the
Australian does not take care of the difference between asylums
seekers of Nauru camp, Darwin and Curtain [sic] camp, are treated

As a human being in this critical condition, we are not being given
the fair treatment , which affect us physically and mentally. This
bitter reality torture us 24 hours means all days. In our home land we
were in a danger of being tortured physically, but here we are facing
mental tortured which are effecting us mentally.

All these sorrowful information have been provided to world through
telephone, mails and email but [we] haven’t been given any response.

Today we all got together to declare that we will continue our
protests until getting our rights. The following are our demands:

1) The most important appeal is that if Australian Government should
have attention to our cases and take us back to Australia.
2) We request the Australia Government to visits us and see us in bad
condition of our lives.
3) stop sending asylum seeker to the Hell.
4) We accept Australia as a democratic country, where people are being
treated equally and as a human being, we expect the same treatment.
At last we want to thanks people who help us …

Tell Abbott and Gillard: don’t punish refugees in my name -

Buy a dictionary for an asylum seeker - because language is one
barrier's we can help break down today.

I too believe it is racism that is holding us back

An Iranian asylum seeker on Nauru attempted to hang himself on Tuesday
night. He was rescued by guards and fellow detainees. This is the
fourth attempted suicide on Nauru since the start of the Gillard
government's Pacific Solution 2.0.

Meanwhile the number of hunger strikers on Nauru is also growing.
Asylum seekers on Nauru told the Refugee Action Coalition that there
are now 6 or 7 people on hunger strike, at least one of them now for
14 days. “More people are joining the hunger strike,” they said, “We
think there will be more day by day.”

“We are getting no answers to anything. There is no immigration in the
detention centre. There are only guards and Salvation Army. Every time
we ask what is happening to us we are told “We don’t know. You must
ask immigration,’ but there is no immigration.

“Even those who came earlier than us, no one has given them answers.

“People are very crazy. Too many people are sick. I knew one man from
Christmas Island. On Christmas Island, he was a normal man. Now he
doesn’t speak, he walks and walks. The water and the food is making
people sick. Many people have dysentery.

“Nauru has to many people and the temperature is too hot. Animals
would not be kept in these conditions. Day by day it is getting worse.

“We prefer to die in the ocean than to die like this in Nauru. We came
to Australia for protection, not Nauru. We need our processing to
begin immediately.

“It is 100 per cent there will be more protests on Nauru.”

What the Salvos have to say about Nauru -