Nauru has gained international attention for its processing centers, run by Australia as part of its controversial ‘offshore detention’ policy. Under this policy, asylum seekers from various countries such as Iraq and Syria that arrive by boat to Australia are sent to Nauru or to Manus Island in Papua New Guinea without prospects for resettlement. Facing increasing protests over the conditions at these centers, a deal was reached to resettle up to 1,200 of these refugees living on Nauru and give them a new home in the United States. About 500 of these refugees have been resettled so far, while about 970 remain across the two islands.
In February 2019, many Australians felt some sense of relief as the last four refugee children were flown off of Nauru to the United States for resettlement in a group of nineteen refugees. One family went to Texas and one to Colorado. While the pace of these resettlements has been relatively slow, human rights activists have been fighting for all children to be taken off of the island since June 2018 and the kickoff of the #kidsoffnauru campaign; from June 2018 to February, there were 170,304 people that signed up and joined the campaign.
At the airport, the last four children to leave Nauru and their families were met by Australians living in the United States and Australian-Americans that are part of Ads-Up (Aussie Diaspora Steps Up), an all-volunteer group that fills in funding gaps and creates social support for refugees in the United States. The group has recruited over 300 volunteers and helps with obstacles that these families face such as getting ID cards, navigating the public transit system, and flight debt. The Australian network in the United States is committed to creating a brighter future for these refugees that have lived on Nauru for years now, and to giving them a warm welcome to the United States.
Julia Wargo is a Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington. She is a second-year graduate student at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies studying Conflict Management and International Economics.