SYDNEY: Hollywood star and UN refugee envoy Angelina Jolie has accepted an invitation to visit the small island of Nauru where Australia sends asylum-seekers for processing and resettlement, the government said Monday.
Jolie, a UN goodwill ambassador, was invited by the Pacific island nation’s President Baron Waqa when they met at the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence Against Women in Conflict in London.
“The government of Nauru can confirm that Angelina Jolie has accepted an invitation by President Baron Waqa to visit our nation,” a government spokeswoman told AFP.
“We believe this will be a wonderful opportunity to showcase the facilities for refugees on Nauru, which we believe are world-best practice.”
Under Canberra’s punitive offshore detention policy, asylum-seekers attempting to arrive by boat are transferred to camps in Nauru or Papua New Guinea for processing and permanent resettlement outside Australia.
Most of those sent to Nauru are families with more than 1,000 people currently held and another 99 having been resettled in the community.
Refugee advocates have been deeply critical of the Australian policy and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees last year slammed the facilities on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island and Nauru.
It said they failed to meet international standards of treatment and amounted to arbitrary detention in breach of international law, while failing to provide an efficient system for assessing refugee claims or safe and humane conditions.
It also noted efforts made to improve conditions on steamy and mosquito-infested Nauru, where people were forced to live in cramped tents with little privacy after riots razed buildings last year.
Australian Immigration Minister Scott Morrison, who rejected the criticism, said Monday the Jolie visit was “a matter for the Nauruan government”.
Asked whether he was concerned the visit would shine a light on Australia’s treatment of asylum-seekers in Nauru, he told reporters: “I don’t plan to respond to any of the assertions you have made.”
Nauru said a date for Jolie’s trip had yet to be finalised.