For too long, some sections of the media, refugee advocates and some NGOs, have focused only on refugees in Nauru and referred to Nauruans with disdain.
Refugees and locals live side by side as part of a homogenous multicultural community. Calls for refugee children to be removed from our country ignore the fact that Nauruan children grow up here happy, healthy and educated within strong family units. Refugee and asylum seeker children attend school and activities with Nauruan children creating friendships and familial bonds. It is disturbing and concerning that advocates and organisations with political agendas prey on the vulnerable and innocent to progress their agendas.
We have a number of organisations and NGOs come to Nauru supposedly to assist all people including Nauruans, but as time passes their true intent and political agenda manifests.
MSF or its representative’s opposition to the offshore processing policy should not have affected their objectivity and work in Nauru. MSF represented their interest to the Government of Nauru as one of supporting the Department of Health in developing capacity to tend to the mental health needs of the island and treating local Nauruans. However, their political agenda against the offshore processing policy was their underlying objective and they worked to serve that objective in various disguised forms.
The statements made by MSF expose their ruse. It has become very clear that they were never here to help Nauruans as was their initial representation to Government to gain entry into Nauru. They were here as political activists and it was self-evident from the statement made by MSF representatives referring to our sovereign nation, which is our beloved home, as an “open air prison”. This was least expected from an organisation proclaiming to be an international humanitarian organisation. Nauru has opened its home to refugees awaiting resettlement options. MSF must not define our home as a prison. It speaks of the organisation itself.
MSF were informed that the refugees and asylum seekers had access to treatment at no cost by IHMS who have a high calibre of international medical staff and facilities. IHMS has worked in Nauru for a number of years and has done so in coordination with the Department of Health.
MSF came to Nauru on the understanding that they would devote their services to Nauruans as the refugees and asylum seekers were catered for by another international health service provider. Their focus was supposed to be the local community. To the contrary, as MSF admits, they would “sneak the details from the clinic” and give them to refugees and asylum seekers “so they could later come and see us (MSF).” This behaviour was common for MSF on the island in fulfilling their objectives as advocates.
Although MSF claimed to be a partner to Nauru and the Nauruan people, instead of working with us, they conspired against us. In their press briefing MSF attempted to criticise and condemn Nauru and the MSF representative knowingly ignored the truth that Nauru provides medical services including pharmaceuticals to everyone without cost with an open door policy. It failed to correctly represent to the media that Nauru has an established practice and procedure for overseas medical referrals for treatments not available in Nauru including for refugee and asylum seeker patients. This had existed prior to MSF arriving on the island and for Nauruan patients prior to Nauru’s hosting of transferees under the Regional Processing Centre arrangements. The overseas medical referral system continues as per usual as an integral part of health services provided by the Government.
The conduct of MSF in Nauru did not meet the commitment it made to the Government to provide health services, which required the Government to boost our medical capacity and introduce new services after a comprehensive review into health care on the island. Originally the Department of Health and MSF entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in 2017 to provide services that the Department was not in a position to provide at that time. However following the review process, the Government introduced a range of services that had previously been covered under the MOU, rendering the agreement redundant.
It is not unusual for an organisation such as MSF to gain political mileage from our decision to cease the MOU. They must realise that no longer will our country accept the concocted lies told about us purely to advance political agendas.
The facilities, care, welfare and homely environment offered to refugees and asylum seekers on Nauru are comparable or better than what other refugees and asylum seekers across the globe receive. Nauruans have embraced our refugee and asylum seeker brothers and sisters and the Government continues to work closely with all other stakeholders to continue this. Most of the refugees on the island are gainfully employed or have their own businesses. They have lived within and as part of our community, participating in Government activities. Some are even employed as Public Servants.
Nauru has hosted many individuals as part of the Regional Processing arrangement, even at one time hosting more than 1/10th of its own population of people from over 22 countries and varied ethnic, social and religious backgrounds. These individuals have enjoyed the same freedoms as any Nauruan living on Nauru. It is only when advocates and organisations such as MSF irresponsibly incite false expectations they put the lives of people into trauma, tragedy and a sense of helplessness.
The Government of Nauru outrightly refutes the allegations that MSF and its representatives were not treated well or fairly on the island. The Government took MSF as a partner and it is only MSF which is now showing its true colours by grossly misrepresenting the facts on the island. Nauru has hosted a number of international agencies that have to come to the island over the years and have seen for themselves the truth of our Pacific island existence.