A Current Affair’s rare look at Nauru

A Current Affair reporter Caroline Marcus talks about her visit with host Tracy Grimshaw. Photo: Nine Nauru Justice Minister David Adeang. Photo: Nine

A screenshot of mould inside a tent for male asylum seekers. Photo: Nine

A woman inside one of the better accommodation options on the island. Photo: Nine

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Nauru has “much lower” rates of sexual assaults, murder and rape than Australia and many refugee assault claims are false or exaggerated, the island nation’s Justice Minister David Adeang has claimed in a tabloid television exclusive.

In an episode of Channel Nine’s A Current Affair on Monday night, which had been promoted as one that would “stun Australia”, Mr Adeang said refugees were “certainly living better” than Nauruans.

They lived in new houses, did not have to pay for rent or electricity and “there is not much to complain about”, he told reporter Caroline Marcus.

Refugee advocates had earlier questioned how the program’s reporter and crew were granted access to Nauru, where foreign media are rarely allowed, and warned they would have been shown a sanitised version of the island and its contentious Australian-funded detention camp.

Marcus told host Tracey Grimshaw that the Australian government played no role in the program gaining access to Nauru, and that Immigration MInister Peter Dutton’s office had called Nauruan authorities “asking a lot of questions” when learning of the visit.

“The Australian government had no idea we were planning this visit, or had embarked on the visit. In fact it was a few hours into our first day on Nauru . . . when Peter Dutton’s office actually called the Nauruan government’s office to find out what a media crew was doing on the island, [asking] ‘Who were they?’,” Marcus said.

“We certainly gave no undertakings [about favourable coverage] whatsoever, we went in there from the start saying . . . we had to have access to all the detention centres and be able to see everything.”

Refugees told the program of their despair at being kept at Nauru for years, and many claimed the policies of the Australian government meant they no longer wished to live in this country.

“Three years ago, I liked [Australia]. But now, never,” said one man, adding: “My kids don’t like [to live in Australia].”

Refugees and asylum seekers, particularly women, have frequently reported being the victim of harassment, assaults, rapes and other crimes – both inside the detention centre and outside in the community.

One young woman declined to share her experience of assault on camera, but told ACA of reluctantly getting married on the island just to feel “safe”.

A young man told of being sworn at and robbed, saying he did not like leaving his home after 7pm “because I am not feeling secure”. Others complained that Nauru police failed to follow up their complaints.

However, Mr Adeang said such claims were inflated or untrue.

“Rates of murder, manslaughter, sexual assault, rape, all those statistics, are much lower than you in Australia, I am sorry to say,” he said.

“[Refugees] have an accident, and they claim that a couple of boys beat them up. That hurts us. They have relationships, somebody gets pregnant, and they claim it was born out of sexual assault and rapes.”

He claimed such allegations were “political” and an attempt to cast aspersions of the Australian government’s offshore detention policies.

The program depicted new refugee housing containing air-conditioning, microwaves and televisions. It also showed single male asylum seekers still housed inside the detention centre in cramped conditions and mouldy tents.

Young girls complained of being harassed at local Nauruan schools.

“It’s bad. They throw our lunch; they spit in our lunch; they fight us; pull our hair,” said one.

Another reported being told: “Go back to your country; you don’t belong here.”

There are fears that refugee and asylum seeker children are missing out on an education because many refuse to attend Nauruan schools.

However, Nauru President Baron Waqa said: “There is always excuses”.

“If it’s good for the Nauruans, I think its good for our refugee friends and asylum seekers. We try our best to make it very comfortable for them but it’s their own choice … not to send their kids to school,” he said.

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