Nauru Regional Processing Centre

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Nauru Regional Processing Centre
Nauru regional processing facility (7983319037).jpg
Part of the Nauru offshore processing facility in September 2012
Location Meneng District, Nauru
Coordinates 0°32′28″S 166°55′48″E / 0.541°S 166.930°E / -0.541; 166.930Coordinates: 0°32′28″S 166°55′48″E / 0.541°S 166.930°E / -0.541; 166.930
Status Operational
Population Decrease 631[1] as of 30 September 2015
Opened 2001 (2001)

The Nauru Regional Processing Centre is an immigration detention and offshore asylum processing centre located on the South Pacific island nation of Nauru. The centre is operated by Transfield Services on behalf of the government of Australia. 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 emptied and closed 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.


The conditions at the Nauru detention centre were initially described as harsh with only basic health facilities.[2] In 2002, detainees deplored the water shortages and overcrowded conditions.[2] There were only very limited education services for children.[2]

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 sewing their lips together, have been reported as occurring at the facility.[3] Attempted suicides were also reported.[4] 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.[5] In 2013, a veteran nurse described the detention centre as 'like a concentration camp'.[4]

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.[6] The letter claimed that the Australian government had been aware of these abuses for over 18 months.[7] This letter added weight to the Moss review which found it possible that "guards had traded marijuana for sexual favours with asylum seeker children".[8] [9][10]


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.[11]

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.[11]

Two camps were built.[12] The first camp, called "Topside", was at an old sports ground and oval in the Meneng District (0°32′26″S 166°55′47″E / 0.540564°S 166.929703°E / -0.540564; 166.929703 (Camp Topside)). The second camp, called "State House", was on the site of the old Presidential quarters also in the Meneng District (0°32′51″S 166°56′23″E / 0.547597°S 166.939697°E / -0.547597; 166.939697 (Camp State House)).[11][13][14][15]

A month-long hunger strike began on 10 December 2003.[16] It included mostly Hazara from Afghanistan rescued during the Tampa affair, who were protesting for the review of their cases.

By July 2005, 32 people were detained in Nauru as asylum seekers: 16 Iraqis, 11 Afghans, 2 Iranians, 2 Bangladeshis, and 1 Pakistani.[17] All but two Iraqis were released to Australia, the last group of 25 leaving on November 1, 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.[18] On 15 March 2007 the Australian Government announced that 83 Tamils from Sri Lanka would be transferred from Christmas Island to the Nauru detention center.[19] 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 center, and would put an immediate end to the "Pacific Solution". The last remaining Burmese and Sri Lankan detainees were granted residency rights in Australia.[20][21] Nauru reacted with concern at the prospect of potentially losing much-needed aid from Australia.[22]


In August 2012, Nauru detention centres were re-opened to process asylum seekers arriving by boat in Australia. The first group arrived the following month.[23][24] 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.[24][25] 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".[26][27]

July 2013 riot[edit]

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.[28] Other people were treated for bruising and cuts.[29] The riot began at 3pm when the detainees staged a protest.[30] Up to 200 detainees escaped and about 60[31] were held overnight at the island's police station.[32] Several vehicles[33] 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.[28][31] 129 of 545 male detainees were identified as being involved in the rioting and were detained in the police watch house.[28]

Opening of the centre[edit]

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.[34]


Graph of detainee population by month at the Nauru Regional Processing Centre since the commencement of Operation Sovereign Borders in September 2013.

As of 30 September 2015 there are 631 asylum seekers held in the detention centre.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Operation Sovereign Borders monthly update: September 2015". Australian Customs and Border Protection Service. 18 October 2015. Retrieved 11 October 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c Mares, Peter (2002). Borderline: Australia's Treatment of Refugees and Asylum Seekers in the Wake of the Tampa. UNSW Press. pp. 132–133. ISBN 0868407895. Retrieved 25 July 2013. 
  3. ^ "Nauru detainees stitch lips together". ABC News (Australia). 20 February 2013. Retrieved 26 May 2014. 
  4. ^ a b AAP (5 February 2013). "Nurse Marianne Evers likens Nauru detention centre to concentration camp". (News Limited). Retrieved 25 July 2013. 
  5. ^ Gordon, Michael (2007). "The Pacific Solution". In Lusher, Dean; Haslam, Nick. Yearning to Breathe Free: Seeking Asylum in Australia. Federation Press. p. 79. ISBN 1862876568. Retrieved 24 July 2013. 
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ "Report condemns Nauru detention centre conditions". News. Retrieved October 5, 2015. 
  9. ^ "Australian Government Department of Immigration and Border Protection" (PDF). Retrieved October 5, 2015. 
  10. ^
  11. ^ a b c Oxfam (February 2002). "Adrift in the Pacific: The Implications of Australia’s Pacific Refugee Solution" (PDF). Oxfam: 9. [dead link]
  12. ^ Dobell, Graeme; Downer, Alexander (December 11, 2001). "Nauru: holiday camp or asylum hell?". PM (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). Retrieved February 13, 2007. 
  13. ^ Frysinger, Galen R. (July 16, 2004). "Sketch map of Nauru". Archived from the original on July 16, 2004. Retrieved February 12, 2007. 
  14. ^ Bartlett, Andrew (August 7, 2003). "Government-sponsored child abuse at the Nauru detention centers". On Line Opinion. 
  15. ^ Cloutier, Bernard (1998). "Nauru". Retrieved February 12, 2007. 
  16. ^ Kneebone, Susan; Felicity Rawlings-Sanaei (2007). New Regionalism and Asylum Seekers: Challenges Ahead. Berghahn Books. p. 180. ISBN 1845453441. Retrieved 25 July 2013. 
  17. ^ "N A U R U". January 31, 1968. Retrieved November 25, 2012. 
  18. ^ (30 September 2006) Samantha Hawley. Burmese asylum seekers likely to achieve refugee status. AM. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 29 July 2013.
  19. ^ "Asylum seekers to be sent to Nauru". ABC Online News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). March 15, 2007. Retrieved March 15, 2007. 
  20. ^ « Pacific solution ends but tough stance to remain », Craig Skehan, Sydney Morning Herald, 8 December 2007
  21. ^ « Burmese detainees granted asylum », Cath Hart, The Australian, 10 December 2007
  22. ^ « Nauru fears gap when camps close », The Age, 11 December 2007
  23. ^ Grubel, James Australia reopens asylum detention in Nauru tent city 14 September 2012 Reuters Retrieved 10 October 2015
  24. ^ a b "Work needed on Nauru detention centre". BigPond News. 19 September 2012. Archived from the original on October 21, 2012. Retrieved 25 November 2012. 
  25. ^ (24 August 2012) Ben Packham. UN won't work with Labor on asylum-seeker processing on Nauru and Manus Island. The Australian. News Limited. Retrieved 29 July 2013.
  26. ^ "Nauru Camp A Human Rights Catastrophe With No End In Sight" (PDF). Amnesty International. 23 November 2012. Archived from the original on 25 November 2012. Retrieved 25 November 2012. 
  27. ^ "Amnesty International slams Nauru facility". Amnesty International. 20 November 2012. Archived from the original on 25 November 2012. Retrieved 25 November 2012. 
  28. ^ a b c "Photos of riot damage at Nauru detention centre released by Department of Immigration". Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). 21 July 2013. Retrieved 21 July 2013. 
  29. ^ "Asylum seekers in police custody after riot at Nauru detention centre". ABC (Australia). 21 July 2013. Retrieved 21 July 2013. 
  30. ^ Hall, Bianca; Flitton, Daniel (19 July 2013). "Policeman 'held hostage' as rioting breaks out on Nauru". Sydney Morning Herald.  Retrieved 19 July 2013.
  31. ^ a b Staff (20 July 2013). "Nauru detention centre riot 'biggest, baddest ever'". The Age. AAP. Retrieved 20 July 2013.  Retrieved 20 July 2013.
  32. ^ "Police attend full-scale riot at asylum seeker detention centre on Nauru". ABC (Australia). 19 July 2013. Retrieved 19 July 2013. 
  33. ^ "Dozens charged after Nauru detention riot". 21 July 2013. Retrieved 21 July 2013. 
  34. ^ Allard, Tom Nauru's move to open its detention centre makes it "more dangerous" for asylum seekers October 9, 2015 Sydney Morning Herald Retrieved October 10, 2015

External links[edit]