Asylum seekers fear being silenced

October 29, 2012

THE Immigration Department has halved internet access to asylum seekers on Nauru after a series of protests, with detainees claiming it is part of an effort to prevent them from contacting the media.

The decision to cut internet use from 30 minutes a day to 30 minutes every second day comes less than a week after The Age spoke via Skype to an asylum seeker on Nauru, the first such interview.

The department has said the reduction is not to limit access to the media, but rather to deal with an influx of detainees – whom the department refers to as ”clients”.

”Clients in detention facilities are free to contact the media whenever they like,” an Immigration spokesman said.

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”Clients have 30 minutes of internet access every second day, due to more clients arriving on the island.”

The department also said the placement of a security guard – called a ”client services officer” – in the detention centre’s computer room was not to discourage detainees from contacting refugee advocates or the media, but ”to settle any disagreement between clients”.

These statements are in contrast to the claims of refugee advocates and the asylum seekers themselves, who say the presence of the security guard and the reduction of internet access are part of an effort to prevent them from speaking publicly.

Also yesterday, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott suggested that the government could blow its entire budget surplus if it did not halt the boats.

In question time, Mr Abbott said that close to 6200 asylum seekers had arrived since July 1. That is well over the estimate of 450 a month provided by Immigration officials at a recent Senate estimates hearing.

He said last year the average cost to the state of each boat was $12.8 million and if only 85 more boats than projected arrived by June 30, 2013, the government’s entire surplus of $1.1 billion would be wiped out.

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4 Comments

Filed under Detention Centers, PNG/Pacific Solution

4 responses to “Asylum seekers fear being silenced

  1. Psychotherapist/Counsellor.

    If the problem is due to an “influx of clients” I am more that happy to provide an iPad for detainees use as I am sure many other people are as well. I wonder if The Age would question the govt. on that one for us.

    Lou Dingle Refugee therapist.

  2. anonymous

    As much as I admire your zeal Lou, It isn’t that simple. It isn’t the number of computers that’s the issues but rather the limited bandwidth available for the guys (clients) due to the poor network provider on the island.

    They aren’t being silenced either, the department is right in saying that the presence of both security and care staff are there to manage the computer facilities itself which can get quite chaotic and not to censor or monitor activity. I’m pretty sure the government has the means to use software to do that for them.

  3. Marilyn

    Turkey, Jordan and Iraq have an influx, we have hostages.

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