Thursday, March 16, 2006

'Living hell' built for two - Nauru still open for business

The Age reports on the plight of the two remaining asylum seekers on Nauru:

"MUHAMMAD Faisal calls his life a living hell. He suffers from high anxiety and poor vision, takes medication three times a day, and recently, in an act of desperation, tried to take his life.

Faisal, 26, is one of the last two asylum seekers left on Nauru under the Howard Government's Pacific Solution. The other, Mohammad Sagar, 29, became concerned last month when he knocked on Faisal's door and there was no reply.

He called the security people and a nurse at the camp and, when they opened the door, he saw Faisal, semi-conscious, bleeding from cuts to his chest, arms and stomach. Faisal was taken to the clinic that once served several hundred mainly Afghan and Iraqi asylum seekers on the tiny, impoverished island.

He later said he had been "pushed to the edge" by the isolation and uncertainty of his situation and a sense of desperation.

"In Nauru life is black," he told the The Age this week. "I feel I am in hell. When I came to Nauru I was 21. My age now is 26. Everything is negative."

Now, almost 4½ years after being sent to Nauru, two of the world's loneliest asylum seekers are now preparing for a new existence outside the camp.

While the camp will be maintained, at a cost to Australian taxpayers of $1 million a month, those employed by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) who have been responsible for the welfare of the two men, including a psychiatrist, are pulling out."

I was involved in the aid component of the Pacific Solution for over a year, which included membership of the Prime Minister's taskforce on asylum seekers. I was also a member of the Nauru facilities' coordinating committee chaired by DIMA. I believe a Royal Commission is essential to expose the Howard government's asylum seeker strategy to the full glare of public scrutiny.

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