Republic of Nauru
Head of state and government: Baron Waqa

Refugees and asylum-seekers remained trapped on Nauru. They had been forcibly sent there by the Australian government, despite widespread reports of physical, psychological and sexual abuse. In September, 27 refugees were sent to the USA; over 1,000 remained on the island.


In April, an Australian Senate Committee report described numerous allegations of physical and sexual abuse, self-harm and neglect of refugees and asylum-seekers in Nauru and Papua New Guinea. The committee found that the main contributing factors were a harmful living environment, uncertainty about the future, an inadequate regulatory framework (including child protection policies), a lack of transparency in operations affecting refugees, and a failure to hold authorities accountable for abuses. By the end of the year, neither the Australian nor the Nauruan authorities had taken steps to remedy the situation.

Reports emerged during the year that the Spanish multinational company Ferrovial and its Australian subsidiary Broadspectrum were complicit in the abuse of refugees on Nauru, and that they reaped vast profits from Australia's refugee policies. Ferrovial stated that it would not renew its contract when it expired in October.[1]

In August, a medical professional reported that four refugee women were being denied transfer to Australia to have abortions, which are illegal on Nauru.

In November, a refugee died after a motorcycle accident; a police investigation was under way. Later in the same month, another refugee received head injuries in a motorcycle accident.


In May, three suspended parliamentarians, who were charged and convicted for peaceful protests in 2015, had their prison sentences substantially increased on appeal: from three months to 22 months for two defendants, and to 14 months for the third defendant. Their lawyer announced the intention of the three defendants to appeal their conviction and sentences to the High Court of Australia, which is the ultimate court of appeal under Nauru's legal system.

Journalists seeking to visit Nauru remained subject to a non-refundable visa fee of USD6,089. This severely restricted media freedom and hampered independent scrutiny of Nauru's policies and practices.

[1] Treasure I$land – how companies are profiting from Australia's abuse of refugees on Nauru (ASA 12/5942/2017)

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