Saturday, January 03, 2004

Pacific Guantanamo

The Dominion-Post is doing its job, devoting the front three pages this morning to giving the Australians a damn good squicking over their concentration camp on Nauru. Conditions in the camp - little food or water, inadequate medical care - are so hopeless that they make Guantanamo look good; no wonder people are sewing their lips together and starving themselves to death.

While the government does not want to be used as a dumping ground for Australia's problems, we cannot condone this. We should take these people and offer them asylum - not from Afghanistan, but from the Australians. While Howard and his chums are shameless (they must be, to have established something this obscene), I still have some hope that the Australian people are not.

I'm also concerned about the steps the Australian government has taken to keep their Pacific Guantanamo out of the public eye. They control all access to the island (all visitors must be vetted by Australia), and the local government seems to be little more than a puppet. As a result, they've been able to make sure that this has stayed out of the public consciousness, by denying access to refugee advocates, media, politicians - in short, anyone who cares. Australia is supposed to be a democracy, but they're using the tactics of totalitarians to prevent public oversight of their decisions. Perhaps Howard has a sense of shame after all... or maybe just a sense of fear at what the Australian public will think if they were confronted with what is being done in their name.