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Refugees vow to continue protests

Wednesday 4 March 2015 | Published in Regional


YAREN – Hundreds of refugees on Nauru say they will continue to protest against what they say are slave-like living conditions on the remote Pacific island.

Around 400 people have been released from the Australian-run detention centre to live in the community after being given refugee visas by the Nauruan government.

Refugees have staged demonstrations in recent days to protest against conditions on Nauru and their treatment at the hands of locals.

“Nauru is not safe. These are people who have had their claims assessed and proven to be refugees, who had a well founded fear of being persecuted and came to Australia seeking protection. They are now facing further persecution and harm on Nauru,” a Refugees on Nauru Facebook post has stated.

On Sunday, large crowds gathered outside the office of Connect Settlement Services, the Federal Government’s service provider for refugees on Nauru.

Around 100 people – including women and children– took part in the protest, chanting “we want freedom”.

One protester, who wanted to remain anonymous, told the ABC that locals do not want them on the island.

“Some of them are very friendly and they understand us, but most of them, they don’t like us to stay in their country,” he said. “Most of them hate us. They are just looking for refugees around the island to fight with them.

“We are refugees; we are not slaves. The way that we’re living here and the way the Nauru government is behaving with us is just like slaves.”

The protest followed an even larger demonstration on Friday involving around 300 refugees.

Photos showed protesters carrying banners with slogans “we are refugees not slaves” and “end the discrimination”.

A young girl was photographed holding a cardboard cross with “Freedom or die” written on it.

“The refugees’ peaceful protest was met with violence by the Nauruan police and local community who tried to stop the refugees from protesting,” it was posted on Facebook.

Over the last six months there have been several reports of refugees being assaulted by locals.

In October, four unaccompanied teenagers claimed they were bashed by a group of apparently drunk men while walking home at night.

The recent protests were initially sparked by a visit to Nauru by Australia’s Immigration Minister Peter Dutton last month.

Refugees demonstrated outside the restaurant where Dutton dined with Nauru’s president Baron Waqa and other government officials.

They have now launched a campaign of non-cooperation with the Nauru and Australian governments.

Refugees with employment have quit their jobs, children are boycotting school and there have been promises of more protests.

The ABC has contacted the Nauruan government for comment but there has been no response.

Australia’s Immigration Department has said the protests are a matter for the Nauruan police force.