Refugees safe outside detention centre: Nauru government

The government of Nauru is insisting asylum seekers and refugees are in no physical danger now they are free to come and go as they please from the detention centre.

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It says stories of attacks by locals are largely fabricated by refugee lobby groups to push their own political agendas.

Justice Minister David Adeang said Nauru is in some ways safer than Australia.

“There is no gun violence in Nauru, people are not dying from domestic violence and our police don’t even have to be armed, so let’s get some perspective into this discussion,” Mr Adeang said in a statement.

He said Nauru was safer than many of the countries the refugees had left.

“It is a nation where locals and refugees live side by side and can be seen every day shopping, relaxing, dining out, swimming and going about their normal activities,” he said.

Refugee Action Coalition spokesman Ian Rintoul said this was nothing more than self-serving rhetoric and the abuse was well documented.

“It is to the eternal shame of the Australian government that it has been rendered mute in the face of the abuses on Nauru,” Mr Rintoul said in a statement.

“But their silence is evidence of their own complicity.”

Nauru announced on Monday the detention facility had become an open centre, in line with a recommendation of a recent Senate inquiry report into allegations of sexual and child abuse.

As well as the change in the centre structure, 600 outstanding refugee claims will be processed within the next week.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton denied the changes are linked to a legal challenge being heard on Wednesday in the High Court of Australia.

He said Nauru has been processing claims and was in the final stages of finalising its decisions.

“It’s not just an announcement 48 hours … before a court case,” Mr Dutton told ABC TV on Tuesday.

The Melbourne-based Human Rights Law Centre is challenging the legality of Australia’s role in the detention centre.

Australian Greens spokeswoman on immigration Sarah Hanson-Young believes the timing is “very coincidental”.

“This (decision of Nauru) doesn’t remove the point that Australia has responsibility for these people,” Ms Hanson-Young told ABC radio.

Asked if he could guarantee the safety of refugees and asylum seekers in the Nauru community following the recent rape claims, Mr Dutton said governments could not provide those undertakings generally.

“The Australian government or the Queensland or New South Wales, Victorian government can’t provide you with that guarantee for people coming out into the Australian society,” he said.