November 08, 2012
The Australian Red Cross says it has sent a small team to Nauru to assess whether it needs to send humanitarian observers there.
The Australian Government has been sending asylum seekers to Nauru since September as part of its new offshore processing policy.
For the past week, about 300 people have reportedly been protesting at the detention centre and refusing food.
The Red Cross’s Acting Chief Executive Michael Raper says no ongoing observer role has been determined or negotiated by the organisation.
“Australian Red Cross representatives have been meeting with key stakeholders as part of the visit but the detail of those meetings is confidential,” he said in a statement.
“Any feedback Australian Red Cross provides from the visit will in the first instance be discussed with Government, consistent with the work we undertake in Australian Immigration Detention Centres and other places where asylum seekers are processed.”
Mr Raper says the team will also look at restoring family links services for asylum seekers moved to the Pacific nation.
‘Let us stay’
Meanwhile, the Salvation Army has confirmed the closure of some facilities at the asylum seeker processing centre on Nauru due to a mass protest and hunger strike.
The Australian NGO is currently providing humanitarian support to asylum seekers on the island, as part of an agreement with the Australian Government.
In response, the Salvation Army has temporarily withdrawn frontline staff and closed the canteen, gym, library and education rooms.
In a statement, The Salvation Army’s director of social programs Major Paul Moulds said that the move was part of standard operating procedure during a protest.
He added that there were no concerns about the safety of staff.
“We intentionally entered into this contract to support the asylum seekers on Nauru and Manus Island and our commitment to this task has strengthened, not lessened,” Major Moulds said.
The Salvation Army also wants the security company running the detention centre on Nauru to review its policies around evacuating staff during protests.
Currently, Salvation Army staff are told to leave the centre when detainees hold a protest, which results in the gym and recreational facilities being shut down.
Major Moulds told ABC Radio Australia, the policy to evacuate staff has been in place since the centre opened but should be reviewed.
“Only because we feel that we can even contribute to something at those times,” he said.
“I think our presence there can contribute so we are just raising that as an issue to be looked at.”