Salvos accused of silencing asylum seekers
Publisher: AAP, Australian Associated Press
Story date: 05/12/2012
Language: English

Asylum seekers on Nauru are being stopped from communicating their plight to families or media because their internet access has been restricted, a refugee advocacy group says.

Asylum seekers supervised by the Salvation Army on Nauru are only allowed 30 minutes of internet time every two days, the refugees action collective said.

They are also prohibited from giving friends use of their quota, helping one another with the internet or even using spare computers.

Those in the Nauru detention centre had agreed to forgo their internet quota so Mahdi Vakili, an Iranian refugee, could have four hours a day to disseminate information about conditions in the facility via Facebook.

"Using the internet has often been the only way asylum seekers on Nauru have been able to communicate their horrific conditions and publicise their protests and hunger strikes, as media have been barred from the detention centre," Refugee Action Collective spokesman Chris Been said.

"This measure is sadly in step with the government's policy of pushing asylum seekers out of sight and out of mind through the policy of offshore processing and dumping asylum seekers on Nauru."

The new restrictions will cut Ms Vakili's ability to correspond with media, thus preventing government spin from being challenged, Mr Breen said.

A spokesman for the Salvation Army told AAP the move was not designed to censor or restrict communications, but to make access to the limited number of computers on the island more equitable.

"There's just not enough time throughout the day and there's also not enough bandwidth for us to distribute the internet for as long as each person wants," he said.

The refugee action collective will protest the quota cuts outside the Salvation Army City Temple in central Sydney on Friday.

Comment was being sought from the Immigration Department.

A department of immigration spokesman told AAP the changes had been made so all in the Nauru detention centre had internet access.

"Arrangements have been made to ensure that each person has equal opportunity to book their time on a PC," he said.

Requests for additional time would be considered if interest levels dropped, he added.
 

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