In 2001, boats carrying hundreds of, mainly Afghan, refugees arrived on the tiny Pacific island of Nauru. This marked the beginning of the “Pacific Solution” – a policy by the Australian government to establish offshore centres for processing asylum claims. The policy was intended to act as a deterrent, discouraging people from travelling to Australia. Many of the refugees lived in the cramped conditions of Nauru for years.
In this Witness History, Josephine Casserly speaks to Yahya, an Afghan refugee who left his home country as a school student when the Taliban gained control of his local area. Yahya was one of the first refugees to arrive at Nauru’s detention centre. Like many, he was hopeful that his stay in the makeshift camp would be a temporary measure, and he’d be quickly resettled in Australia. But that was not to be.
(Asylum seekers on their first day in the compound at Nauru after their long voyage, Sept 2001. Credit: Angela Whylie/Getty images)