Self-Harm, Protests Escalate On Nauru After Morrison Video Played To Asylum Seekers

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Refugees settled on Nauru have marched on the Australian embassy as anger continues to run high following a weekend of self-harm and suicide attempts by those still held in detention on the Pacific island.

Multiple sources have indicated a series of very serious incidents have taken place in the detention centre in the past few days, including the ingesting of washing powder and the sewing of lips by asylum seekers.

Incidents have taken place inside the family compound and New Matilda understands a group of unaccompanied minors have also engaged in self-harm, though it is not known how serious their injuries are.

One man is understood to have cut his throat.

The wave of incidents and protests follow an outpouring of anger from asylum seekers after a message from the Minister for Immigration confirming they would not be able to apply for Temporary Protection Visas in Australia was played to those held in the centre on Thursday.

In exerts from the video accessed by New Matilda, the Minister encourages those held to return to their countries of origin.

“You may have heard that temporary protection visas are to be reintroduced,” the Minister said.

“This policy does not apply to those who are on Nauru or on Manus Island or have been transferred there. This recent announcement does not apply to people in the regional processing centres in these countries.”

One day after the video was played, the Minister travelled to Cambodia, announcing a new resettlement deal with the impoverished country.

The office for the Minister for Immigration Scott Morrison have not returned calls or emails requesting comment, though their standard policy is to refuse to answer questions relating to allegations of self-harm.

Protests have been ongoing over the weekend and the detention centre on Nauru remained in lockdown on Sunday night.

One Nauruan local told New Matilda that refugees settled on the island took part in a peaceful demonstration on Friday, followed by a Saturday protest within the detention centre. Police cars and ambulances were seen rushing to the centre later that day.

The witness said a large number of officers had been present at the centre and that one passing police bus had been so full the officers were forced to sit on each others laps.

There are no reports of asylum seekers being harmed by police or security forces, as has occurred previously on Manus Island and to unaccompanied minors on Christmas Island.

While news of an agreement to settle refugees in Cambodia has now reached those held in Nauru, it is the arbitrary nature of the decision to exclude those already transferred to the island from applying for TPVs that appears to have sparked the current wave of anger.

One Iranian man who has been settled on the island told New Matilda today’s protest had been organised because of the sense of hopelessness and betrayal among those in detention and settlement camps on Nauru.

“We know [the Australian government]are about to approve new rules and that they are going to give people on Christmas Island a new visa but not the people on Nauru,” he said.

“We don’t know why the Australian government are punishing us.”

Refugees march in Nauru, Monday

In recent months asylum seekers whose claims have been found to be genuine have been moved out of the island’s detention compounds and into one of two camp groups – one for single men, the other for families.

A Fairfax report revealed growing desperation among those settled in the camps, forced to live on an island with limited water supply, almost 100 per cent unemployment and no money left in Nauru’s coffers.

Though news does not appear to have reached those in detention on the island, the Nauruan government has said it will soon cut funding to refugee programs and services, leaving the fate of asylum seekers on the island in doubt.

The Iranian man said the gathering at the Australian embassy had attracted around 100 people and remained a peaceful affair. He thanked the Nauruan government for allowing the demonstration to go ahead.

Late last week, representatives for the Minister for Immigration confirmed a 16-year-old girl had been medically evacuated from the island, allegedly after swallowing washing powder.

New Matilda

New Matilda is independent journalism at its finest. The site has been publishing intelligent coverage of Australian and international politics, media and culture since 2004.

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