Nauru Regional Processing Centre
||This article needs to be updated. (August 2016)|
Part of the Nauru offshore processing facility in September 2012
|Location||Meneng District, Nauru|
|Population||380 as of December 2016|
The Nauru Regional Processing Centre is one of many offshore Australian immigration detention facilities, located on the South Pacific island nation of Nauru. The centre is operated by Broadspectrum (formerly Transfield Services) on behalf of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection a department of the Government of Australia that is responsible for immigration, citizenship and border control. The use of immigration detention facilities is part of a policy of mandatory detention in Australia. The Nauru facility was opened in 2001 as part of the Howard government's Pacific Solution. The centre was suspended in 2008 to fulfil an election promise by the Rudd government, but was reopened in August 2012 by the Gillard government after a large increase in the number of maritime arrivals by asylum seekers and pressure from the Abbott opposition. Current Coalition and Labor Party policy states that because all detainees attempted to reach Australia by boat, they will never be settled in Australia. Many detainees have since been returned to their countries of origin, including Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Afghanistan and "unknown" destinations. Asylum-seekers found to be genuine refugees have been detained on the island since mid-2013.
The conditions at the Nauru detention centre were initially described as harsh with only basic health facilities. In 2002, detainees deplored the water shortages and overcrowded conditions. There were only very limited education services for children.
On 19 July 2013 there was a major riot in the detention centre. Several buildings were destroyed by fire, and damage was estimated at $60 million.
Hunger strikes and self-harm, including detainees sewing their lips together, have been reported as occurring at the facility. Attempted suicides were also reported. Medical staff have been provided by International Organization for Migration.
An overwhelming sense of despair has been repeatedly expressed by detainees because of the uncertainty of their situation and their remoteness from loved ones. In 2013, a veteran nurse described the detention centre as 'like a concentration camp'.
In 2015, several staff members from the detention centre wrote an open letter claiming that multiple instances of sexual abuse against women and children had occurred. The letter claimed that the Australian government had been aware of these abuses for over 18 months. This letter added weight to the Moss review which found it possible that "guards had traded marijuana for sexual favours with asylum seeker children". 
Media access to the island of Nauru, and the RPC in particular, is tightly controlled by the Nauruan government. In January 2014, the Nauru government announced it was raising the cost of a media visa to the island from AUD $200 to $8,000, non-refundable if the visa was not granted. Since then journalists from Al Jazeera, the ABC, SBS and The Guardian have stated that they have applied for media visas with no success. The last journalist to visit the island before the commencement of Operation Sovereign Borders was Nick Bryant of the BBC.
In October 2015, Chris Kenny, a political commentator for The Australian, became the first Australian journalist to visit Nauru in over 18 months. While on the island, Kenny interviewed a Somalian refugee known as "Abyan", who alleged she had been raped on Nauru and requested an abortion of the resulting pregnancy. Pamela Curr of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre accused Kenny of forcing his way into Abyan's quarters to speak to her—a claim Kenny strongly denied. In June 2016, the Press Council of Australia dismissed a complaint regarding the wording of his article and its headline.
In June 2016, a television crew from A Current Affair was granted access to the island and the centre. Reporter Caroline Marcus presented asylum seekers housed in fully equipped demountable units, and provided with their own television, microwave, airconditioning units and refrigerator. In a column in The Daily Telegraph and an interview with ACA host Tracy Grimshaw, Marcus denied that there were any conditions on the crew's visit, and stated that the Australian government had been unaware of the crew being granted visas until after they had arrived on the island.
The establishment of an offshore processing centre on Nauru was based on a Statement of Principles, signed on 10 September 2001 by the President of Nauru, René Harris, and Australia's then-Minister for Defence, Peter Reith. The statement opened the way to establish a detention centre for up to 800 people and was accompanied by a pledge of A$20 million for development activities. The initial detainees were to be people rescued by the MV Tampa (see Tampa affair), with the understanding that they would leave Nauru by May 2002. Subsequently, a memorandum of understanding was signed on 11 December, boosting accommodation to 1,200 and the promised development activity by an additional $10 million.
Initial plans were for asylum seekers to be housed in modern, air-conditioned housing which had been built for the games of the International Weightlifting Federation. This plan was changed after landowners' requests for extra compensation were rejected.
Two camps were built. The first camp, called "Topside", was at an old sports ground and oval in the Meneng District ( ). The second camp, called "State House", was on the site of the old Presidential quarters also in the Meneng District ( ).
By July 2005, 32 people were detained in Nauru as asylum seekers: 16 Iraqis, 11 Afghans, 2 Iranians, 2 Bangladeshis, and 1 Pakistani. All but two Iraqis were released to Australia, the last group of 25 leaving on 1 November 2005. The remaining two Iraqis stayed in custody for over a year. The last one was finally accepted by an undisclosed Scandinavian country after five years in detention, in January 2007. The other was in an Australian hospital at the time, and was later given permission to remain in Australia while his asylum case was being decided. In September 2006, a group of eight Burmese Rohingya men were transferred there from Christmas Island. On 15 March 2007 the Australian Government announced that 83 Tamils from Sri Lanka would be transferred from Christmas Island to the Nauru detention centre. They arrived in Nauru by the end of the month.
In December 2007, newly elected Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced that his country would no longer make use of the Nauru detention centre, and would put an immediate end to the "Pacific Solution". The last remaining Burmese and Sri Lankan detainees were granted residency rights in Australia. Nauru reacted with concern at the prospect of potentially losing much-needed aid from Australia.
In August 2012, the Labor Government announced the resumption of the transfer of asylum seekers arriving by boat in Australia to Nauru (and Manus Island, PNG). Australia signed an initial Memorandum of Understanding (‘MOU’) with Nauru on 29 August 2012. The first group arrived the following month. The re-opening of the centres sparked criticism of Australia's Labor Government after the United Nations refused to assist the government on the mandatory measures. In November 2012, an Amnesty International team visited the camp and described it as "a human rights catastrophe ... a toxic mix of uncertainty, unlawful detention and inhumane conditions".
The MOU between Nauru and Australia was renegotiated on 3 August 2013. Clause 12 of the 2013 MOU allows for resettlement of refugees in Nauru: 'The Republic of Nauru undertakes to enable Transferees who it determines are in need of international protection to settle in Nauru, subject to agreement between Participants on arrangements and numbers'.
July 2013 riot
On 19 July 2013 a riot occurred at the detention centre and caused $60 million damage. Police and guards had rocks and sticks thrown at them. Four people were hospitalised, though their injuries were minor. Other people were treated for bruising and cuts. The riot began at 3 pm when the detainees staged a protest. Up to 200 detainees escaped and about 60 were held overnight at the island's police station. Several vehicles and buildings including accommodation blocks for up to 600 people, offices, dining room, and the health centre were destroyed by fire. This is about 80 percent of the centre's buildings. 129 of 545 male detainees were identified as being involved in the rioting and were detained in the police watch house.
Opening of the centre
In October 2015 Nauru declared that the asylum seekers housed in the detention centre now had freedom of movement around the island. Given reports that three women had been raped and numerous other assaults have taken place against asylum seekers it was reported that this may actually increase the amount of danger to them.
US resettlement deal
In November 2016 it was announced that a deal been made with the United States to resettle people in detention on Nauru (and Manus) Islands. There is very little public information available about how many of these refugees will be resettled by the US however initial reports estimated up to 1,250 refugees would be resettled from Nauru and Manus Island. The Australian Prime Minister indicated that the priority is ‘very much on the most vulnerable’, particularly families on Nauru. On 27 February 2017, the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection told a Senate Estimates Committee that preliminary screening had started as part of the resettlement deal, but officials from the US Department of Homeland Security had not yet been authorised to start formally vetting applicants.
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- Manus Island Regional Processing Centre
- List of Australian immigration detention facilities
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