September 27, 2012
THE Salvation Army says many of the asylum seekers transferred to Nauru are “quite shocked” to find themselves on the tiny Pacific island.
A fourth group of men was transferred there on Tuesday to have their refugee claims processed, bringing the total sent so far to 120.
The Salvation Army’s Major Paul Moulds said many of the asylum seekers he had spoken to had got on boats before learning Australian laws had changed.
“I think many of them that are here in this first group had thought that they would be processed in Australia,” Mr Moulds told the ABC radio on Thursday.
They had expected to be held for a period of time, but in Australia.
“They’re quite shocked, I think, to find themselves in this little island in the middle of the Pacific with very basic facilities.”
Mr Moulds said it was not surprising some of the men were questioning how long they could stick it out, given the lack of clarity about their likely length of detention.
One Sri Lankan man already had decided voluntarily to return to Colombo from Nauru, the immigration department said on Tuesday.
Nevertheless, Mr Moulds said the atmosphere in the camp was “quite amazing” and it was a credit to the service providers that morale was so good.
The Salvation Army is one of those organisations, along with defence and the immigration department, working to finish the camps on the island.
Mr Moulds said the situation was not ideal but he rejected recent reports the asylum seeker camp was some kind of holiday resort.
His group and others needed to provide activities and not just leave the asylum seekers “sitting in depression and boredom”.