Protests have “dramatically escalated” in recent days at Australian asylum seeker detention centres on the island of Nauru after detainees were told they “must” resettle in Cambodia, a refugee rights group has claimed.
According to the Refugee Action Coalition (RAC), up to 600 people broke out of a family detention compound late on Thursday night amid clashes with security guards. A number of people are said to have been arrested.
“The escalated protest followed Australian immigration officer [sic] again telling the asylum seekers: ‘You can’t go to Australia, you must go to Cambodia’,” the group claims.
Both Cambodia and Australia have insisted that a resettlement agreement signed last month in Phnom Penh will be a “strictly voluntary” scheme for processed refugees.
However, refugees on Nauru have said they have no intention of coming here.
Refugees in other offshore detention centres have been offered temporary visas for resettlement on the Australian mainland, but those on Nauru have not been presented with the same choice.
Instead, they could remain on Nauru for up to five years if they don’t agree to come to Cambodia.
“It is clear that Australia is not being honest with the asylum seekers and refugees on Nauru, and people on Nauru do not understand the details of the Cambodia deal,” RAC spokesman Ian Rintoul said in an email yesterday.
“The Australian government constantly says there is no alternative to Cambodia and is trying to coerce them into ‘voluntarily’ agreeing to go there.”
Spokespeople for Australian Immigration Minister Scott Morrison did not respond to a request for comment yesterday.