Nauru

The tiny Island of Nauru, once known as Pleasant Land rests on a raised coral formation and is surrounded by an enormous coral reef, which means that there is no natural port for shipping. The only point of contact with the rest of the world is by air via the single runway built by the Japanese during WW2 that cuts across the south coast. A narrow plateau of vegetation runs round the perimeter of the island and it is here that most of the inhabitants live. The interior of this strange Pacific island has been reshaped over time by intensive phosphate mining that has left a residue of sharp shards and pinnacles of rock.

Once the mining ceased the island had to look elsewhere for funding.

Measuring 21 square kilometres it has a small population of 11,000 inhabitants. In 2001 financial inducement from the Australian government led to the setting up of an offshore immigration centre there that originally held 1,200 asylum seekers. It now holds about 300 adults who remain in limbo. After a public outcry and a promise from President Obama, the children were resettled in various parts of the world.

The offshore island detention system was created to deter people from attempting the sea journey to Australia. As it is impossible to escape by boat or air the island itself is the prison. Inside the camp where conditions have been reported as basic and harsh the main punishment is the limbo in which people are held. Mainly from Afghanistan and Iraq these people have skills that cannot be used here although there is some craft making.

Now that the camp is so much smaller and until the phosphate mining resumes the island is in financial crisis. There has been an attempt to attract tourists but there are few amenities or attractions other than the enormous coral reef. The waters are described as deep blue and the island, surrounded by coconut trees and sandy beaches but the camp remains. Nauru is 300 kms from its nearest neighbour, Kiribati.

The camp doors are now open as there is no possibility of escape by air or sea but there is nothing to do.

Illness and mental problems have led to the relocation of many of the original detainees but no one knows what will happen to the last few hundred who remain.

Nauru, 73 x 73 cm, Silk on linen with black felt, 2017

Redacted Island, 73 x 73 cm, Silk on linen with black card, 2017

Island, 29 x 41 cm, Silk on linen with black felt, 2014

Miranda Argyle

2019