Fact check: Have the asylum seekers on Nauru not proven themselves to be genuine refugees? – Fact Check
One Nation Leader Pauline Hanson says that the asylum seekers than are on Nauru have not proven themselves to be genuine refugees to warrant them coming to Australia. (ABC News: Marco Catalano)
Former senate adversaries Sam Dastyari and Pauline Hanson have engaged in a fiery exchange on Sky News over the status of asylum seekers on Nauru.
The heated argument broke out when Senator Hanson said the asylum seekers remaining on Nauru had not been judged to be refugees by the Australian Government, a claim Mr Dastyari strongly rejected.
“These ones that are there have not proven themselves to be genuine refugees to warrant them coming to Australia,” Senator Hanson said.
Is she correct? RMIT ABC Fact Check investigates.
Senator Hanson is wrong.
The overwhelming majority of asylum seekers currently on Nauru have been deemed to be refugees by the Nauruan Government in accordance with international law and the United Nations refugee convention.
Australia’s Department of Home Affairs indicated that it accepted Nauru’s determinations regarding the refugee status of asylum seekers on the island.
What makes a person a refugee?
According to the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, a refugee is:
“Someone who is unable or unwilling to return to their country of origin owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion.”
The executive director and principal solicitor for Refugee Legal, David Manne, told Fact Check the convention provided a legal definition used by governments to make decisions on a person’s refugee status.
“A person who is seeking protection as a refugee must meet that legal definition by establishing that they have a well-founded fear of being persecuted for at least one of the five reasons outlined by the convention,” he said.
Director of the Public Law and Policy Research Unit at Adelaide University, Professor Alex Reilly, told Fact Check that refugee status decisions for asylum seekers on Nauru were the responsibility of the Nauruan Government.
“Australia has an agreement with the Nauruan Government that they will keep asylum seekers in detention, and that [Nauru] will process their claims — they are determining if they are a refugee under international law,” Professor Reilly said.
In a statement provided to Fact Check, the Department of Home Affairs said the Australian Government accepted the decisions of the Nauruan Government in regards to the refugee status of asylum seekers.
“The Government of Nauru is responsible for refugee status determination of all persons transferred to Nauru under regional processing arrangements,” the spokesperson said.
“The Government of Australia refers to persons positively determined from Nauru’s process as refugees and is supporting Nauru to identify durable resettlement options.”
Professor Reilly added that he could not name an instance where Australia had rejected a refugee status decision of the Nauruan Government.
During a recent Senate Estimates Committee hearing, the deputy commissioner of the Department of Home Affairs, Mandy Newton, provided figures for asylum seekers on Nauru.
According to Ms Newton, there were 652 asylum seekers on the island as of October 22.
Of those, 541 (or 83 per cent) had been granted refugee status.
A further 88 people (13 per cent) were still subject to the “refugee status determination” process. A further 23 were considered “failed asylum seekers”.
A spokeswoman for the Minister for Immigration, David Coleman, confirmed in an email to Fact Check on November 1 that the figures in the breakdown presented by Ms Newton were the latest which were publicly available.
Principal researcher: Ellen McCutchan