Nauru calls for more control over refugees

Inspection ... ADF engineers check a Nauru processing centre.
Inspection ... ADF engineers check a Nauru processing centre.

Asylum seekers sent to Nauru under Australia's Pacific Solution Mark II would have a curfew and be banned from paid employment – but they would be free to roam the island, send their children to local schools and do voluntary work in the community.

As an Australian reconnaissance team visits his nation this weekend, the Nauru Foreign Minister, Kieren Keke, said his country would have "no problem" with giving journalists access to report the stories and conditions of asylum seekers in its care who wanted to speak publicly.

Nauru has also signalled it wants more control over how asylum seekers are managed than it had under the Howard government, potentially deepening the isolation of those sent there.

Mr Keke voiced concern for people who could be held there indefinitely, saying Nauru wanted "to make the process as good as it can be – given what it is".

"I suspect there will be stress and harm done no matter where they are," he said.

Asylum seekers stripped of the right to bring family members to Australia under the humanitarian program, as recommended by the expert panel, would likely also face a financial impost on family reunions, The Sun-Herald has learnt.

The panel, led by former defence chief Angus Houston, proposed that all refugees who have arrived by sea – other than children – should lose the right to apply for free for family reunion, citing concern at a 20-year backlog on applications in the humanitarian program.

Under their proposals, asylum seekers who had come by boat would be able to apply to sponsor family members to Australia only under the general migration scheme, which charges more than $2000 in visa fees for each relative they want to sponsor to Australia.

Meanwhile, Labor has been accused of bypassing its own new human rights laws.

By making amendments to its 2011 offshore processing bill, instead of introducing it as a new bill, the government side-stepped an obligation to prepare a report on how the laws complied with all seven international human rights pacts.

Frank Brennan, who led national consultations on human rights for the government in 2008-09, slammed it as a "convenient artifice to avoid further human rights scrutiny".

But a spokesman for the Immigration Minister, Chris Bowen, denied there had been any bypassing, saying the bill was introduced months before this year's new requirement for a rights statement.

This story Nauru calls for more control over refugees first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.