Forty asylum seekers who left Nauru to resettle in the United States want to return, the Pacific island nation’s president claims.
Nauruan President Baron Waqa said 40 people sent to the US – out of 300 detained on the island – have contacted the government asking to return because life there isn’t “easy”.
“The US – it’s a difficult place to live, a lot of competition for work and jobs,” Mr Waqa told The Australian on Friday.
“They call American the land of the free and all that but (there are) a lot of catches and they soon find out that it’s not that easy.”
The president told the newspaper life in Nauru is cheap, warm and relaxed and few people outside Australia understood refugees moved freely around the island, owned business, worked for his government or had fallen in love with locals.
He said his people’s history of exile and prosecution made them sympathetic as a nation to refugees and rejected claims his government mistreated or neglected refugees.
“We try to understand the situation because there are people that have their own political agendas overseas and want to attack us because of our involvement in the process centre and our relationship with Australia. So we get caught up in the middle.”
His comments come after Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton last month said refugees resettled in the US have been complaining back to friends in Nauru about the conditions in their new country.
“We are seeing … reports of people that have gone from Nauru to the United States saying it is harder than they thought because they need to find work in the United States,” he told parliament.
“They are saying to people on Nauru now you would be better to go to New Zealand or Australia because they have a better welfare system.”
The federal government has maintained nobody processed through Nauru will ever call Australia home, even if they are found to be genuine refugees.
However, it has confirmed asylum seeker children will leave Nauru by the end of this year.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has defended the treatment of refugee children on Nauru claiming they get better medical treatment than indigenous children in remote communities in Australia.
He dismissed claims that Nauru was “a hellhole” and said it was disrespectful to the Pacific nation.
“They actually get more medical help than many local Naurans do and they get more medical help than a lot of Australian indigenous people get in remote communities as well,” Mr Morrison told television program Studio Ten this week.
There are 22 asylum seeker children still on the island, while five children have been evacuated in the last few days.