Last refugee children leave Pacific camp: advocates

Eyewitnesses have reported a dire situation on Nauru, with families living under constant fear of loved ones killing themselves. (File/AFP)
Updated 27 February 2019
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Last refugee children leave Pacific camp: advocates

  • The Refugee Action Coalition (RAC) said 19 refugees, including four children, were aboard the flight
  • They had been detained under a hard-line policy designed to deter would-be asylum-seekers from reaching Australia by boat

SYDNEY: The last remaining refugee children held in an Australian-funded camp on the remote Pacific island of Nauru departed Wednesday on a flight bound for the United States, asylum-seeker advocates said.
The Refugee Action Coalition (RAC) said 19 refugees, including four children, were aboard the flight.
They had been detained under a hard-line policy designed to deter would-be asylum-seekers from reaching Australia by boat.
The policy bans all boat arrivals from ever settling in Australia and sends them for processing to Pacific camps where hundreds have languished for years.
The children’s departure from Nauru came after Canberra was put under growing domestic and international pressure to resolve the issue as many refugees suffered physical and mental health problems waiting for their paperwork to go through.
“Despite claims by (Australian Prime Minister) Scott Morrison... that all refugee children were off Nauru, it is only after the flight to the US today that the claim can be truthfully made,” RAC spokesman Ian Rintoul said.
He said another flight of 22 refugees stranded on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island left for the United States on Tuesday.
The US agreed to take up to 1,250 refugees from Nauru and Manus Island under a deal reached between Canberra and then-president Barack Obama’s administration in early 2017.
President Donald Trump has since denounced that deal, but Washington has still taken a smaller number of the refugees.
Rintoul said 531 had departed so far — 189 from Manus and 342, including 27 children, from Nauru.
Canberra says its policy discourages asylum-seekers from embarking on dangerous sea voyages, and has managed to halt the flood of boat arrivals that characterised previous governments.
But the camps have come under fierce criticism, with reports of abuse, suicide and despondency.
Eyewitnesses — including AFP journalists — have reported a dire situation on Nauru, with families living under constant fear of loved ones killing themselves.
Morrison’s conservative government has been reluctant to soften its stance, arguing any concessions will encourage people-smugglers to resume their dangerous trade.
It recently lost a parliamentary vote on legislation requiring the temporary transfer from Nauru or Manus of anyone assessed as needing medical treatment.
However, Rintoul said the government was still “dragging its feet” on enacting the legislation.


Gunmen kill 13 at Veracruz bar in one of worst Mexican slayings this year

Updated 43 min 29 sec ago
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Gunmen kill 13 at Veracruz bar in one of worst Mexican slayings this year

  • The unidentified assailants opened fire on Friday night after coming to look for a man at the bar
  • Seven men, five women and a child died in the shooting

MEXICO CITY: Gunmen shot dead 13 people at a bar in the city of Minatitlan in the Mexican Gulf coast state of Veracruz, authorities said on Friday, in one of the worst slayings to hit Mexico since President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador took office.
The unidentified assailants opened fire on Friday night after coming to look for a man at a bar in the southeast of Minatitlan, a spokesman for the government of Veracruz said.
Seven men, five women and a child died in the shooting, which occurred close to Minatitlan’s oil refinery, one of six run by state oil firm Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex). Four other people were injured, the state government said in a statement.
The motive for the killings was unclear, the spokesman said.
The man the gunmen were seeking was identified as the owner of a bar in the city, the state government said. The attack took place during a family celebration.
It was not immediately clear if the man owned the bar where the attack occurred, nor whether he was present at the time.
Hugo Gutierrez, the head of public security in the state, said on Twitter that an operation had been launched to capture the people responsible for the killings.
The oil-rich state of Veracruz has been convulsed by gang violence and political corruption scandals for several years.
Lopez Obrador took office in December vowing to reduce violence in Mexico, where more than 200,000 people have been killed since the end of 2006 in brutal turf wars between drug cartels and their clashes with security forces.
After reaching record levels in 2018, murder rates have stayed high, surpassing previous-year levels in the first three months of the new government, official government data shows.
The president was due to visit Veracruz on Sunday, according to an official schedule published before the attack took place.