Nauru: Specific reasons we should use this Pacific island
Lyall Mercer has been a consultant to members of the Nauru Parliament in the past, which has given him a unique insight into their thinking and convinced him that Nauru would have be a better answer to the current asylum seeker debacle.
Nauru is not the simplistic and utopian answer to all of Australia’s asylum seeker challenges, but there would be many advantages of setting up camp in this tiny island nation.
The Federal Government is being stubborn and offensively stupid by continuing to talk about Malaysia. Given their failed talks with East Timor and various other nations, they have no credibility left on this subject.
Let’s face one absolute fact: If we stop the flow of boats, fewer lives will be put in danger.
In short, stopping the boats is the most compassionate and humanitarian response – something lost on the Greens and refugee ‘advocates’ who struggle to comprehend this basic logic.
But for balance, let’s first list the negatives of Nauru.
The Government is unstable.
When Opposition Leader Tony Abbott and Shadow Immigration Minister Scott Morrison visited Nauru in 2011, I arranged for them to meet the Nauru Opposition MPs, because I knew that at any time, the island’s government could change.
I was right. (Please read the next paragraph slowly).
The Opposition became the Government after the presidency changed three times within a week and the Opposition convinced one of the Government MPs to join them by offering him the presidency. But since then the Government has become the Opposition again although this time the President stayed on after sacking the Cabinet and replacing them with his former colleagues.
Such is the political structure, the government could again change at any time.
Yet despite this, all 18 MPs in Nauru agree that an Aussie refugee processing centre on the island would be good for their struggling (that may be an overstatement) economy.
Here is the important point – An unstable Nauru Government will not hinder the ability of the Australian Government to build and run the refugee processing centre, and it will not adversely affect asylum seekers.
The facilities on Nauru are derelict.
Tony Abbott claims it won’t take much to establish a centre in Nauru, but this is far from accurate. The facilities on Nauru will cost a small fortune to rebuild or renovate, unless Channel Nine’s “The Block” uses it for their next series (which would make it the best series yet).
The place is simply not ready. However, as we have seen on rare occasions, governments can act quickly if they have the will to do so. Temporary facilities can be created in the meantime – but it will cost money.
So why is Nauru the best option? Let’s look at the positives.
Asylum seekers will be treated like humans.
The people of Nauru will embrace their visitors, allow them freedom of the island, welcome them into their homes and genuinely look after them. They will be visitors, not prisoners.
Alternatively in Malaysia, where over 28 million people reside in a land barely larger than New Zealand, asylum seekers are at risk of being ignored, locked up in detention centres with little outside interaction.
The Australian Government can control the environment.
In Nauru, the tiny location and small population will enable Australia to control the treatment of asylum seekers. In Malaysia, their government will have the authority to do as they wish.
Asylum seekers will learn valuable skills.
On Nauru, visitors will be able to mingle with locals, learning skills like cooking, fishing and trades. In Malaysia, they won’t.
It will help our Pacific neighbours.
Hosting a refugee processing centre will help Nauru – a nation with which Australia has important historical links. We owe it to Pacific nations to help them financially and socially. We owe Malaysia nothing.
An island paradise or an Asian concrete jungle?
A simple question – Where would any person be happier? Asylum seekers can wander to the beach in Nauru, swim in local waterholes, experience deep sea fishing, gaze at the night’s stars and enjoy interesting walks – all at the expense of the Australian taxpayer.
In Malaysia, I have no idea what they will or will not be able to do, but I doubt it comes close to the options on Nauru.
The answer to the current question is simple. Nauru – while dysfunctional in government, would ensure that our refugee policy has heart while still stopping the flow of boats.
The Nauru option is a friendly and compassionate option that would restore dignity to asylum seekers while stopping greedy people-smugglers from further exploiting the vulnerable.
It would also ensure that only genuine refugees end up in Australia and our borders are once again secure.
Follow Lyall on Twitter: @LyallMercer
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