Last Updated: Friday, 19 January 2018, 17:46 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2004 - Nauru

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 25 May 2004
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2004 - Nauru , 25 May 2004, available at: [accessed 20 January 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Nauru hosted over 200 asylum seekers in detention at the end of 2003. The vast majority were Afghans who the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and Australia had rejected but were now reconsidering for refugee status. All had been brought to Nauru by the Australian government as part of an Australian policy toward asylum seekers initiated in September 2001 and often referred to as the "Pacific Solution." Nauru itself has no refugee policy although it cooperates with UNHCR.

Asylum Seekers

At the end of the year, because of the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, UNHCR was reviewing the 22 cases it had rejected earlier and it appeared likely that UNHCR would grant them asylum. UNHCR also pressed the Australian government to review its decisionsand Australian Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone was considering doing so.

During the year, many of the Afghans protested their rejection, four by sewing their lips together. Forty others staged a hunger strike in December for 29 days.

In December, lawyers filed a case before the Supreme Court of Victoria in Australia, claiming damages and alleging that more than 300 asylum seekers in Nauru were falsely imprisoned. The claim alleged that Australian officials took the asylum seekers on Australian vessels against their will after officials intercepted them in or near Australian waters, and held them in Nauru against their will. The lawyers argued that Australia had no legal authority to hold foreign nationals on foreign soil.

Detention Conditions

Besides the Afghans, some 82 rejected asylum seekers mostly from Iraq (71) and the remainder from Iran, Palestine, and Pakistan remained detained, 93 of them children. A psychiatrists' report published in May said children at Australia's detention camps, including at Nauru – some as young as three – displayed alarming rates of mental illness, including major depression and post-traumatic disorder.

Australian human rights groups protested that officials denied journalists, human rights activists, doctors, lawyers, and clergy visas to visit the asylum seekers during the year. They also complained about detention conditions including poor water quality and an inadequate power supply in Nauru. In addition, Nauru officials denied Australian lawyers admission to represent the detained asylum seekers – despite UNHCR asking them to change the policy in 2002.

In August, authorities charged three security guards at the detention camp employed by the International Organization for Migration with drug offences.

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