Nauru: the Guantanamo Bay of the Pacific

Green MP Keith Locke is demanding the Government makes some effort to intervene in the tragedy unfolding on Nauru.

The first journalist reports from Nauru for many months, filed by a Dominion Post reporter, paint a scene of tragedy and despair amongst the asylum seekers imprisoned on the remote island. Many speak of ending their lives and some hunger-strikers are reported as being close to death.

“The Australian government’s fixation with a ‘Pacific solution’ to its perceived asylum-seeker ‘problem’ has turned Nauru into another Guantanamo Bay,” said Mr Locke, the Green Foreign Affairs spokesperson. “New Zealand’s meek acceptance of this injustice doesn’t square with our initiatives in other areas of regional concern.

“We have — quite rightly — campaigned against nuclear testing on Mururoa and sent peacekeepers to East Timor and the Solomons. Why are we now silent in the face of such injustice, so close to home?

“The conditions for the asylum seekers are clearly intolerable. Why else would hunger strikers risk their lives to bring their plight to world attention? New Zealand must take some urgent initiatives, even if it offends the Howard government, which is prepared to let refugees die to keep them out of Australia.

“We all know that the war continues in Afghanistan. It is simply not acceptable to force people who have fled that country in terror to return there now. If it is such a safe place to return to, what are armed New Zealand troops doing there?

“We have a duty to help Australia to resolve this crisis, as responsible citizens of the Pacific.

“New Zealand must first demand that elementary human rights are respected on Nauru, such as the right of the asylum seekers to talk to lawyers of their choice. But we should also make a public offer to take some of the asylum seekers, as we did two years ago with refugees from the Tampa.

Mr Locke is calling on the New Zealand government to initiate urgent discussions on the Nauru situation with the Australian authorities and the UN High Commissioner on Refugees.

“Peoples lives depend on quick action,” said Mr Locke. “We don’t have the time to endlessly waffle about process while people are suffering so much on Nauru. The only real ‘Pacific solution’ must include New Zealand.”