Australia’s agreement with Nauru to detain refugees was a “deal with the devil”, the island’s former president has claimed. Source: 10 Daily.
Sprent Dabwido, president of the island nation at the time of then-Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s 2012 deal to send asylum-seekers to Nauru, has admitted that he regrets the decision and said that his country should tear up the agreement.
“I thought I was helping Australia, I thought I was helping the refugees themselves,” he told The Project’s Hamish Macdonald, in an interview last night.
The former president said he has terminal cancer, and claims he has just days to live. In what he said would be his final ever interview, he admitted the refugee arrangement had been a failure.
“I regret my decision at that time ... we have turned our country upside down,” he said. “Deaths still occurred. Not at the sea but on my island.”
The Nauru detention centre was opened in 2001 by the Howard Government, but closed in 2008 by prime minister Kevin Rudd. Ms Gillard reopened the centre in 2012, to house a large number of asylum-seekers who had begun travelling to Australia by boat.
Women, children and families were generally taken to Nauru, while men were taken to the Manus Island detention facility in Papua New Guinea. At least six refugees and asylum-seekers are thought to have died on Nauru, including several by suicide.
Mr Dabwido said he did not have hesitations when signing the 2012 agreement, but now regrets his decision.
“I think the deal on the table was done by the devil, it is a deal with the devil,” Mr Dabwido said. “The Nauru Government should find a better way than living on these people’s blood.”
A Morrison Government spokesperson defended its regional processing arrangements as a “critical component” of its border protection policies, and said Australia works closely with Nauru to ensure “appropriate services”, including health and welfare services, are provided to refugees and non-refugees alike.
There were less than five men in detention on Nauru as of February 2019, according to Home Affairs, with the Government highlighting in recent times that it has removed all children from the island.