Last Kids Off Nauru Slammed With $1000s In Debt By US Gov.
The final children held on Nauru are now in the United States, but when their planes touched down at LAX Airport, their families landed themselves in thousands of dollars of debt, courtesy of the United States Government.
Despite refugees often arriving with barely more than the clothes on their backs, it is US government policy to force refugees to repay the cost of their transfer flights – over $12,000 USD for some families from Nauru. The Australian government has not covered any of these costs under the resettlement deal.
Ben Winsor, Co-Founder of the Ads-Up Refugee Network – a group of Aussie ex-pats who have been helping former Manus and Nauru detainees in the USA – says the policy is especially punishing for families.
“For a single refugee the debt is tough but manageable, but for parents who are barely able to cover their rent to be handed debt notices for over $10,000 – it’s absolutely brutal,” he said.
The Ads-Up Refugee Network has created a GoFundMe fundraiser for the families from Nauru who now owe thousands to the US Government. All the money raised will go directly to the families.
“It’ll help set the kids up for a better future. To pay off this debt, the medical bills, the rent – to send these young kids to college.” Winsor said.
“Most of the Manus and Nauru refugees over here are working hard in minimum wage jobs for as little as $7.50 an hour, so it’s hard enough to keep your head above water, let alone pay off these massive debts,” he said.
“It’s heartbreaking to see their adult children working in Dunkin Donuts rather than going to college, all because the rent and bills are such a crushing burden.”
Ads-Up Co-Founder Fleur Wood, herself a mother of two, says the United States is already a tough place to raise children.
“Some of the young kids need trauma counseling, some of the older ones want to go to college, but anything their parents have to spare has to go towards paying back this debt,” she said.
“They’re coming here after five years stranded on Nauru – some of these children were born on Nauru – and rather than finding support they’re being slammed,” she said.
“This is America, where a trip to the hospital can bankrupt a family and going to university can take years of saving. Their kids are behind before the race has even started, as a parent it’s crushing to see,” she said.
“So many Australians are appalled by what has been done in their names, so the fundraiser is one small way to try to put it right. Honestly, it’s the least we can do.” Wood said.
Conditions on Nauru have been slammed by international human rights groups and the United Nations, with leaked incident reports showing refugees on the island experienced disturbingly high levels of self harm, sexual abuse and physical violence.
Last year a 10-year-old boy and a 12-year-old girl made repeated attempts to kill themselves, igniting a campaign to get all families off the island.
MOHAMMAD YARSIR MUBARAK
Mohammad Mubarak is a father of three who was resettled with his wife and children in San Antonio, Texas. The five of them have a flight debt of $7,677 USD.
“Life in America isn’t easy, but we have our freedom and my family has a future now, so we are thankful to no longer be trapped on Nauru. It is very distressing to be raising children with no idea about what sort of future you can offer them,” Mubarak said.
Mohammad’s children are aged eight, six and three, with the youngest born while the family was on Nauru. Mohammad is available to interview.
Nimali is the eldest daughter in a family of six who were resettled near San Diego in California.* Shortly after arriving they were handed a $12,265 USD debt notice for their flights.
“I’m only 23 but I feel like five years of my life has been stolen on Nauru - there’s so much I want to do now that we’re free, but you know at the moment the most important thing is to be paying the bills and supporting my family,” said the 23-year-old, who works at Subway.
Nimali is available to interview. Please note, Nimali is a pseudonym. The individual has requested that they be de-identified so as not to cause issues with the government.
NOTE: The refugees (in America) are available to interview by phone. Both Ads-Up founders are also available for interview, and are currently in Sydney. Ads-Up is raising money for the families on GoFundMe, the entirety of which will be sent to the families directly with no administration fees or overheads.