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Guest Opinion: A Dome Of Silence On Nauru

A Dome of Silence on Nauru


By Elaine Smith

There is silence. Long ago a ''Dome of Silence'' was lowered over the cage on Nauru Island. The residents of Topside Camp are quiet. Normal activities have stopped. The men on the hunger strike are lying quietly too. It is too painful to speak. Helpers wash down their bodies with cool cloths. Amanda Vanstone is quiet too. There has been no comment from her.

"We need our Freedom." is the message from the camp. "We are protesting because we can't go back and because we can't stay in the cage." All the Broken Hearted refugees want help from any country." No one is listening to the refugees. Not the UNHCR, not the other countries. Where is the help?"

Any person who had the remotest chance of survival in their home land has returned. Even some who knew they had no chance have gone, and they have immediately fled again.

"I left Narro (Nauru) and after a long jurney I reached to my native country Afghanistan. I stayed at Kabul the capital of Afghanistan for about 8 days and then left to my Home city the Province of Ghazni with the help of IM.Unfortunately, when I reached my village I could not find my family and for two months I searached them but in vain. After doing all efforts I only find a little hearing about them that they left for pakistan due to attrocities and other difficulties faced here in Afghanistan. Reaching here, I did not find anything right, still no peace here, human killing and other crimes rate are very high. No job opportunity over here. things are going from bad to worse. The people of Afghanistan's are living in a sorry plight."

This letter was received Sunday 14th December and is a typical story. Others have returned to find that their families have been killed, their wives and children, their brothers and sisters.

Australia tells them it is safe. "You have no choice" they are told. Each of the residents of the cage on Nauru can tell a personal story of survival when their brothers did not. They have seen torture and killings.

Australia has resounded to their search for freedom by locking them away in an isolated cage on an inaccessible island. It is exquisite torture in itself. Who could have thought this up?

Maybe when visitors are once again allowed to visit Nauru, we will make Topside Camp a place of pilgrimage. It will be part of the history of our nation. By then many of the stories will be told. The stories of the little children, the stories of camp survival without adequate water or toilet facilities. We will get to know their personal stories, the stories of heroism and courage, the stories of despair and grief.

There may not be any graves on the camp. Each person has signed a form to say they want their body buried in Afghanistan, because it is Afghanistan that they love. They would not stay a minute away from their families and friends if it was possible to live. They are not fleeing to Australia, rather they are on a desperate search for safety. Most had never heard of Australia. They will be happy to find some peace in any country.

The sewn lips are a symbol of silence. The people of Topside Camp have been placed outside Australia's jurisdiction. No humanitarian organisations are allowed to visit, no journalists, no lawyers, no one who can independently observe or give them some advice. It makes you wonder what has to be hidden. The Island has been cut off from the rest of the world. It is not possible to get a visa to visit Nauru. Only locals and staff fly in and out. The country is so impoverished that it has asked Australia to handle their visa applications! So even if you are a hopeful visitor from New Zealand, or another country, you will have your request denied per kind favour of Australia.

It is only now that Australians are really getting to know those trapped in the camp. It has been a monumental struggle. First they had to learn English, learn our crazy way of writing, learn how to use a computer, learn how to use a telephone. Now we have come to love them. Each of them has pen-friends all over the country. The young men have Aussie, "Mums", the little kids call us "Grand ma". We have photos of their lovely faces.

They are tapping on the glass walls of the 'dome of silence'.

How many deaths will occur before Amanda Vanstone breaks her silence?

***********

Elaine Smith 403 Ocean Drive West Haven NSW Australia, 2443 Elaine Smith phone/fax +61 2 65596977 email gefsmith@bigpond.net.au. See also.. http://www.nauruwire.org for more details.


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