Fifteen years ago on Wednesday, the 433 asylum seekers on the Indonesian fishing vessel Palapa were rescued by the Norwegian container ship Tampa about 150 kilometres from Christmas Island. Australia refused to let them land on Christmas Island, with John Howard making the declaration: “I believe it is in Australia’s national interest that we draw a line on what is increasingly becoming an uncontrollable number of illegal arrivals in this country.”
The result, of course, was a hasty deal with Nauru and Papua New Guinea and the opening of the “offshore processing” camps. As the Nauru leaks showed in the past weeks (and, let’s be honest, as we have known for quite some time), that policy has been nothing short of a disaster, with those seeking Australia’s help and protection put in danger and kept in Third World conditions.
After 15 years, the camps on Manus Island are to be closed. It’s time for Nauru to do the same.