Virtually no Australian, among those asked, “Do you know where Nauru is?” are aware of its location, even thought its currency is the Australian dollar and many Australians earned fortunes mining its now depleted phosphates.
When told, Nuaru, from Canberra, is about half way to Hawaii they appear amazed. "Not possible," is the usual response.
Asylum seekers to Australia, mostly from the ravaged Mid-east and Asian subcontinent, attempt entry by rickety boats, illegally via Indonesia. Like Mexicans, illegally crossing the border into the United States, many die. Since 2001, the estimate is somewhere short of 1,000 have drowned, most since 2009.
About one-third the size of Manhattan Island, at three by three miles, Nauru's history is colorful from its warrior founding, German annexation for thirty years (1888-1918), then leper colony status before occupation by the Japanese. After the Pacific War, Nauru is a United Nations' trusteeship with administration by Australia until self-governing in 1966.
Now the world's smallest independent republic, reduced to a wasteland and (summarizing from Wikipedia) reported by the US Department of State as a major money laundering center, used by Russian organized crime for narcotics trafficking, the island nation (with about 10,000 residents) survives on aid, reportedly exchanged for political payoffs, from United States, China and Russia.
During this week, as reported in all the Australian media, the Parliament will consider twenty-two recommendations to settle, for the time-being, how Australia is to deal with the tens of thousands seeking a new life inside the borders.
One recommendation is to re-open the, closed since 2009, Nauru Detention Centre; another is to add the island Manus, roughly in the same region, but a part of Papua New Guinea.
Both island options, as Green Party, Member of Parliament, Adam Bandt, says, “Are cruel...a policy of expelling people from this country....”
Julia Gillard, Prime Minister, is seeking to overcome a political gridlock, “Get things done,” as she says, “With a regional solution.”
Pamula Curr, of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, says, “When Australia talks about regional solutions, read the real lines—they are talking about regional dumping.”