I thought we could take a close look at Nauru and totally destroy Abbott’s fantasy image of this hell-hole.
Abbott, unlike most politicians, has been to Nauru, in 2011. He knows exactly what it’s like, although how much he actually noticed while he was there is debatable. He certainly did not seem to notice the old Howard-era camp had become a primary school.
On a lightning trip to Nauru to inspect the detention facilities set up by the Howard government, Mr Abbott said the camp structures were ”sound” and a processing centre ”could be reopened within weeks”.
Last night Sam Dastyari explained the reason Nauru was chosen for off-shore detention – it’s about the worst place you could be.
Let’s see why.
First – the climate.
Nauru is just a bit over 40 km from the Equator, so its very hot and humid. Right now, as I write, it’s 3.00 pm on Nauru, it’s 31C, the humidity is 68%. It’s also raining. Daytime temperatures are usually in the 30C to 35C range, at night the temperature seldom drops below 25C.
Try living in a tent with 17 other people in weather like that, with only a fan to keep everyone cool. No wonder black mould is a big problem on the island.
There are no seasons, just a monsoon season from November to February with the rest of the year usually dry. Droughts are frequent.
There are no flowing streams on Nauru to provide fresh water. There’s just a polluted freshwater lagoon, too contaminated for swimming let alone drinking, and groundwater accessed by wells. Most of the groundwater is contaminated by seepage from the island’s septic tanks (there is no sewerage treatment facility) and by mining run-off.
The National Assessment Report (Republic of Nauru, 2004) identified the following threats to the quality of groundwater resources, including contamination by cadmium, leachate from rubbish dumps and sewage. Contaminants of concern include:
(If you have time, look through that entire report and see all the problems known to our government when they decided to re-open the detention centre. Further proof Nauru was chosen because it really is a hell hole.)
The rest is too salty to be drinkable. Locals rely on tank water. There are some desalination plants, but they are unreliable, expensive to run and eat into the island’s limited, imported fuel supplies. In the dry part of the year water restrictions are the norm and that applies to the camp as well. Mosquitoes breed in the swampy places and plague those in the camps.
In the camp water collected from roofs is used for washing clothes and flushing toilets. Drinking water is brought in by tanker from the desalination plants.
Food supplies are a problem. Mention a Pacific island and you immediately imagine plentiful tropical fruit, loads of seafood, feasts starring meats and vegetables cooked in an underground oven like a hangi or an imu, chickens, eggs, taro, and more. Well, Nauru isn’t like that. The island is mostly barren rock, as a result of mining. Food is imported and is mostly canned or processed. Fresh food is restricted to limited amounts of fish and, very rarely, fresh beef. All other fresh food needs to be flown in or brought by ship on weekly supply runs from Australia and is very expensive.
Recent surveys have highlighted the difficulty of growing fruit and vegetables, and the high cost of importing nutritious, fresh food aboard Nauru Airlines planes. “We have WHO standards like ‘are there servings of fruit and vegetable in the diet?’” Auto said. “But 95 per cent of Nauruans in that survey reported not having the recommended amount of vegetables and fruits.”
You think of a “pleasant island” in the tropics and you imagine beautiful beaches with crystal water, clean sand and probably some palm trees.
Not on Nauru.
Yes, there is white sand, and yes, there are palm trees, but the beaches are rocky and footwear is needed for safety. Anibare Bay is advised as the best beach for swimming, it has fewer rocks than the others, it is not as safe as it looks. The water at the beaches is contaminated by E-coli. Locals become immune to this as children, but tourists and refugees just get sick. The most popular swimming spot seems to be the boat harbour, which is mostly enclosed, making sure those friendly bacteria get a better chance of breeding and getting inside you. Some beaches are decorated with rusting, discarded bits of machinery left over from the now all but defunct phosphate mining.
The Australian government has spent millions on upgrading the Republic of Nauru (RON) Hospital on Nauru. We were shown photos of a new ward with a row of new beds, and told this is “state of the art”. Both Dutton and Abbott have told us facilities on Nauru are better than facilities in some regional Australian towns. This reflects poorly on both men. Facilities are nowhere near those in regional Australia, they are vastly inferior. There’s another issue with these lies. If they are allegedly “better” then what the hell has this government been doing for the last five years, to make our facilities worse than those on a rotting, corrupt Pacific island where anyone with anything worse than a stubbed toe needs to be flown to Port Moresby for treatment?
Refugees are treated differently to the local population. They are denied proper medical care. Many articles have been written about this, especially over the last few weeks. Look them up, I’ve already taken up far too much space to detail all the problems with health care.
And finally –
The government of Nauru, dependent on Australian funding, seems determined to cut off as much medical help as possible. This is beyond my understanding. Nauru depends on Australian money to keep the island going. Without the steady stream of funding the refugees bring the island would be unable to survive. It has no other means of support. There is no tourism, the place really is a hell hole. There’s no industry, no fuel to support any. There’s no water supply. There’s no food. Without help from the outside world Nauru would revert to a barren rock within weeks.It seems odd to me that the dictatorship masquerading as a government seems intent on killing off all the remaining refugees as fast as they can.