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Former Australian PM Tony Abbott Calls Nauru a 'Very, Very Pleasant Island'

Why Global Citizens Should Care
Detaining people seeking asylum in offshore detention facilities is a violation of basic human rights. Refugees fleeing violence and persecution are not criminals, they are human beings who deserve and need protection and respect. Global Citizen campaigns for the protection of refugees and migrants. You can take action here.

The island of Nauru, home to one of Australia’s notorious immigration detention centres, has been unjustifiably labelled as a “hell-hole” when in actuality it is a “very, very pleasant island,” former Prime Minister Tony Abbott has announced.

Abbott made the comment during an interview on 2GB radio on Monday, before further elaborating that refugees living in the offshore detention centre receive better health care than people in some regional towns throughout Australia.

Take Action: Call on Australia to Step Up to Support Migrants and Refugees!

"Health services on Nauru for boat people are much more extensive than the health services that a lot of regional towns get here in Australia,” he said. “Nauru is no hell-hole by any means, I’ve been there. If you like living in the tropics, it’s a very, very pleasant island.”

When pressed about the growing ‘Kids Off Nauru’ movement, Abbott warned that a growing public push to bring children to the mainland for medical treatment would, in turn, simply encourage “people smugglers to suggest people just bring some kids with them to automatically get into Australia.”

"If we give them what they want we will get more of them — that's to say the boats will start up again," Abbott stated. "Of course 'Kids Off Nauru' is a great slogan but it's a dreadful guide for policy.”

Abbott’s comments are in total contradiction from those of the Australian Medical Association and Doctors Without Borders, both which cite a surge in mental and physical health conditions in children detained on the island.

Doctors without Borders has warned the mental health situation throughout the facility is "beyond desperate", with some children so traumatised they are in a state of semi-comatose and unable to speak.

Read More: New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern Offers to Resettle Australia's Refugees — Again

On the day of Abbott’s comments, 652 people were estimated to be held in detention on the island, according to the Guardian. 541 of those people have been found to be legitimate refugees fleeing persecution. 88 people are still having their claims processed, with the remaining 23 previously declined.

This week, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced eleven critically ill children had been evacuated off the island and brought to Australia for treatment.

Despite thousands of protesters rallying against the federal government’s offshore detention process on Saturday, and a recent YouGov Galaxy poll which revealed 80% of polled voters want children and their families transferred off the island, Morrison made no further comment in regards to a timeline for when, or if, all refugee children could be evacuated.