Fate of detainees at Nauru facility still unclear

Ben McKay |

The long-term fate of asylum seekers on Nauru remains unclear amid concerns for their wellbeing.
The long-term fate of asylum seekers on Nauru remains unclear amid concerns for their wellbeing.

In another sign Australia’s offshore processing centre in Nauru appears to be winding down, asylum seekers in detention have been told they will be released into the community on the tiny island nation.

However, the long-term fate of asylum seekers on Nauru remains unclear, generating anguish and concerns for their wellbeing.

On Thursday, President David Adeang confirmed Australia transferred 101 people to Nauru, most of who were being held in the centre referred to locally as the RPC.

Mohammad Bashir Anjum, a Pakistan national, has been detained in Nauru for five months.

In correspondence with AAP, Mr Anjum said management told him this week “you will be released soon in Nauru community … maybe this week, but not confirmed”.

He remains skeptical.

“We (are hearing) this for last two months … I asked many times about the time frame but no one has answered,” he said.

Mr Anjum, who fled politically motivated violence, was taken by bus this week to a local bank to open a bank account, raising hopes he might soon be living in Nauru rather than in the RPC.

His plight is similar to that experienced by hundreds of asylum seekers moved to Nauru in the past decade by successive Australian governments, which maintain the facility to deter unauthorised arrivals by boat.

However, after a peak of more than 1000 detainees last decade – many of them held for years – the RPC was empty in 2023 until the recent arrivals.

There are now some 80 detainees, with Australian lawyers currently understood to be on Nauru to assess and progress their claims.

The Australian government anticipates reduced use of the offshore processing centre, with $250 million less set aside in 2025 according to budget papers.

Mr Anjum said “mental conditions are really bad, all of us”.

About 80 detainees are being held in Australia’s offshore processing centre in Nauru. (Ben McKay/AAP PHOTOS)

“No one knows here about their future but personally I just want stay with my family happy and safe anywhere because I am really tired from this hard time,” he said.

“I want to get out of it.  

“My kids are mentally really disturbed.”

Australia has said it will never allow any detainees to settle in Australia.

It is not clear what avenues to third-party resettlement are open to current detainees, with New Zealand maintaining its agreement to take 450 refugees does not apply to recent arrivals.

In any case, two years into a three-year deal, NZ has only accepted 172 refugees, with major doubts about whether it will hit the quota.

“We appeal (to) NZ and Australian governments to do something for us and treat us as human beings, not like a criminal or animal because we have family back home,” Mr Anjum said.

Asylum seekers and advocacy groups have consistently expressed concerns over the lack of appropriate medical treatment on the remote island.

In a rare interview on Thursday, Mr Adeang expressed full confidence their needs were being met.

“We have hundreds of people looking after the 101 refugees here – hundreds, maybe thousands of people looking after them,” he said.

“Of course, our medical facilities are not as what may be expected by others but what we do is send them overseas. 

“If he (Mr Adeang) does (have) a case to be treated overseas, he will be sent overseas.”