Camp closure hurts Nauru
by Marianas Variety
Myron Taleka thought all his Christmases had come at once when he got a job as a driver at Nauru’s detention center more than two years ago.
The former telecommunications worker was hired on four times his previous pay and had $520 a fortnight to support his wife, six kids, his widowed sister and her children, as well as other relatives.
It’s been a matter of pride that no one in his circle has gone hungry since he got the detention center job.
Now Taleka and his wife, Bernadette, face financial ruin because of the pending closure of the center.
Nauru has no social security system and the Talekas have no idea what their future holds or what sort of lives their three sons and three daughters will have. “I felt helpless and shocked when I heard the center would close,” he said.
Nauru’s new president, Marcus Stephen, has asked Australia not to turn its back on the tiny island nation when the new Labor government finally abandons the Pacific Solution.
Stephen said the economy will be plunged into crisis if the detention center — estimated to generate at least $8.6 million annually — is closed without extra Australian funds pumped into aid.
He said Nauru had done the right thing by Australia when it needed somewhere to process boat people. Now it is time for Australia to remember the role Nauru played in managing a major immigration problem that was of great concern to the Australian government some years ago.
The paint had barely dried on extra accommodation at the Nauru center when John Howard lost office last month, signaling the end of his scheme to leave asylum seekers in detention in the middle of nowhere.
The center now has 500 beds in 250 rooms, with more than 400 beds unused. It employs about 130 people, including 100 locals, who are paid at least twice as much as Nauruan public servants. Most of them support more than one family, and the imminent loss of their jobs in a country where jobs are scarce is terrifying.
Stephen — a Commonwealth Games weightlifting gold medalist in the 59-kilogram class — said Nauru has always had a good relationship with Australia and he wants that to continue. He said funds to support infrastructure and education are vital.
“There will be a very deep impact on Nauru’s economy but we acknowledge Australia’s decision,” he said.
“It will leave us in a big hole financially. I hope the ongoing commitment by Australia [which gives Nauru about $15 million a year in aid] will still be there and that it accedes to our request. If it doesn’t we will feel deserted. I hope they acknowledge that we put our hands up when Australia was in need of assistance,” he added.