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Nauru Refugee Hunger-Strike: Communication Lost

Out of the fire and into the frying pan

By Elaine Smith -

It is a great tragedy that people who managed to escape the persecution and death of Afghanistan, Iraq and other places, should end up being popped into the frying pans of Australia's detention centres. The most notorious of these are in hot isolated places, first Curtin (now closed), Woomera (now closed), Port Hedland, Baxter, Manus Island (one inmate remaining) and Nauru.

Australia has managed to send many people back by various means. There are the last desperate souls in each of the camps who do not know which is worse, to return and face violence, or remain and be imprisoned with their children for life.

Those on Nauru face this dilemma. They have been silenced and isolated as much, if not more than other camps. They have no access to advisers, no legal representation, no independent medical observers, no journalists.

They are cut off from any help. It is impressive to see that these men, women and children learned English. They learned to speak, they learned to write. Maybe they stumble but they have made a valiant effort. Now they write to friends where ever they find them, in many little Australian towns.

The mail deliveries are just another obstacle. We can wait a month or more for a letter to be delivered from impoverished Nauru. They then began to learn the internet, but that was expensive $5 each time for people who could not earn any money, and only accessible when they were taken by guards to the township every two weeks or so. Then recently a phone was installed. We cannot

During this hunger strike time we have all felt powerless. We know that they can rarely get a message from the internet (shut down over the Christmas holiday period), we know that the faxes we sent to IOM have waited days before they are delivered. We cannot phone. We just wait and wait and hope someone has a phone card to get a message out.

We are very anxious because we know they have no friend in Nauru that they can trust to advise them to stop the strike, they have no legal adviser to explain the United Nations' letter. The only advice they had was from an ex Minister for Immigration sent by Amanda Vanstone with a directive to stop the strike. No words were said to them that they could take hope from. Now we wait in silence.

Where will the rescue come from?

I received no phone call in the last 24 hours. I have tried to phone IOM but the line is down. Last year about this time the phones were cut and not repaired for a month or more. I do not know what is happening. The isolation seems complete.

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