Lack of clarity as to what and when constitutes a legal arrival date in Australia- important as legislation to offshore dump is retrospective to 13th August.
On Friday at 4 pm Immigration officials at the Northern Immigration Detention Centre (NIDC Darwin) told the asylum seekers from the ROP boat that they would be taken to Nauru in two weeks. This boat has been designated on arrival timetable as Boat 412.
What is confusing is why the people on these two boats who seemingly arrived at the same time, have such different destination outcomes – ROP to Nauru and LYN to Australia. The boat ROP 412 and another boat LYN 406 both arrived at Ashmore Reef on the 11th August, names and details registered on the 12th August and then held at sea by the Australian Navy for 4 days and were only transferred to Darwin after the legislation was passed.
The legislation which legalised the right of the Australian government to designate an offshore place and transfer asylum seekers offshore was made retrospective to the 13th August. All people on boats after boat number 409 are to be transferred to Nauru or any other designated offshore place. Why have people been held at sea until the legislation was passed?
What is unclear also is the arbitrary way in which the boats are numbered. ROP Boat 412 and Lyn Boat 406 arrived on the 11th August at Ashmore and Darwin on the 16th August. Why are one boat 412 and another boat 406 and one designated for processing in Australia and the other for dumping on Nauru? These people have also been told that they will be transferred to Nauru.
In addition there are 80 Afghan asylum seekers on Christmas Island from the PIC Boat 410 who are very distressed and on a hunger strike who have been informed that they too will be transferred to Nauru. They were rescued at sea by a Philippines vessel on 12th August and transferred to an Australian Navy ship on the 13th August and then to Christmas island on 16th August.
So far not even a full contingent of the army has arrived on Nauru in order to put up tents and dig pit toilets to accommodate the people. As Kieran Keke from Nauru has outlined there are many problems not least of which is no drinking or washing water. The Nauru government have made it clear that they will not vacate Statehouse Camp as the school for Nauruan children is there and also disability services. Topside Camp is in ruins and too small for the number of people already arrived. As is evident in the Infrastructure Report commissioned for the Minister, accommodation, food and water present major challenges. What is also clear is that conditions on Nauru are likely to rival the worst in refugee camps in third world countries.
It is uncertain how these people will be removed. Will they be handcuffed as was imposed on the six men brought from Christmas Island to Villawood today. The reason given was that the plane charter company insisted on it. Will the people taken to Nauru be drugged in order to get them to go quietly to their uncertain fate on Nauru for an indefinite period of time? Will they be transported to Darwin airbase in the caged trucks as was the case when asylum seekers were transported to Christmas Island and Curtin? Will children and women be similarly treated? Will families be split in order to ensure that they go quietly to their uncertain fate on Nauru?
The offshoring of human beings to placate the more vicious elements in government is a logistical and human rights nightmare. No one will emerge from this cruel expensive policy with any dignity or integrity. The harm it will cause to vulnerable people is beyond measure. Seldom have we seen a democratic government embark on a policy which is designed to hurt and harm people so deliberately.