April 27, 2014
Asylum seekers detained on Nauru who are found to be refugees will be given a five-year working visa for Nauru, a leaked document obtained by Guardian Australia says. The first decisions are due to be handed down in a few weeks’ time.
Guardian Australia also understands that a week-long water shortage at the Australian immigration detention centre on the island has resulted in blocked toilets and no showers for the hundreds of children, families and pregnant women detained there.
Flooding from rainfall has also prevented some contractors entering the family compound in the past few days.
The first group of asylum seekers to be given the chance of settling in Nauru will be informed of their status “in the coming weeks”, says the document, which bears the Nauruan government’s coat of arms.
A batch of determinations, affecting at least 60 people each time, will then be made on a monthly basis. This detail was announced by the immigration minister, Scott Morrison, earlier in April.
The document states that asylum seekers who are deemed to be refugees will be “settled in Nauru for a period of up to five years”. It also informs asylum seekers that they can “still decide to return home at any time”.
However, refugees will also be warned that if they break any Nauruan law while awaiting their determination they will be considered “not of good character” and potentially denied settlement. Significantly this includes “any protest activity”.
“Even if you are found to be a refugee you may not be settled in the Nauru community if you are not of good character,” the document warns.
If they are found to be a refugee, a detainee will be assigned a “settlement caseworker” to help them find accommodation, and with health, education and cultural orientation services, the document says. The Nauruan government is promising to help refugees start small businesses.
Several locations are being prepared in Nauru for the resettlement of refugees, Guardian Australia understands.
Asylum seekers who are found to not be refugees will be able to appeal the decision, although no legal representation will be provided.
A spokesman for Morrison’s office said water supply had been affected by a water pump going out of service. “The issue has now been resolved and water supply delivery to Nauru facilities are back in place. At no stage did the centre run out of water.”
A Nauru source said water shortages had plagued the detention centre for a week. “The water has completely cut out,” the source said. While asylum seekers have had access to drinking water, they have been unable to shower, or wash clothes.
Flooding in places was said to be “at knee height”, preventing some staff from entering the facility.
Earlier in April a dengue fever outbreak among staff and asylum seekers resulted in more criticism that the detention centre was not a safe place to hold detainees.
Since then Guardian Australia has revealed serious allegations that security staff have assaulted asylum-seeker children in the camp, and that an unexploded second world war bomb had been found in the camp housing families.