6 September 2018
Pacific Islands Forum: Australia must tackle refugee crisis in Nauru as regional summit closes
The Australian government must urgently evacuate the 107 refugee children and their families trapped in appalling
conditions in Nauru, or else accept New Zealand’s offer to provide safe haven, said Amnesty International, as the
Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) comes to a close in Nauru today.
The four-day meeting, which brought together leaders from across the region, comprehensively failed to address the needs
of refugees, with the approved draft Forum Communiqué featuring no mention of an improved, human rights-oriented
approach to refugee policy.
“The dire situation for refugees and asylum-seekers in Nauru requires urgent action and the Australian government can
still uphold its responsibility by evacuating them to Australia,” said Roshika Deo, Amnesty International’s Pacific
“However, if Australia refuses to change course, it must not stand in the way of others who are willing to offer these
people the protection they so desperately need. New Zealand’s Prime Minister this week reaffirmed a longstanding offer
to take in 150 refugees per year from Manus Island and Nauru - Australia must facilitate, and not obstruct this
Amnesty International is also dismayed that Pacific Leaders failed to address Australia’s cruel and abusive refugee
policy at the forum meeting. An open letter co-signed by Amnesty International and more than 90 other civil society
organisations last week called on PIF leaders to prioritise the escalating health crisis for refugee children on Nauru
and demanded an end to the shameful policy.
“The Pacific Islands Forum was an opportunity for leaders in the region to say enough is enough and show that they would
no longer stand by while the Australian Government’s abusive policies continue to risk more lives,” said Roshika Deo.
“This chance has been completely squandered. Instead we saw the Government of Nauru release despicable claims about the
nature of the reported self-harm by children and the detention of a New Zealand journalist for speaking with a refugee.”
On Saturday Nauru’s President, Baron Waqa, claimed during a TV interview that children were being pushed into
self-harming by their families and refugee advocates, saying: "It's the way of working the system, probably
short-circuiting it, just to get to Australia." This was followed by the detention of TV New Zealand journalist Barbara
Dreaver by Nauruan police on Tuesday after she interviewed a refugee.