Doctor slams Nauru's rejection of Australian court appeals

CANBERRA, Australia — A British doctor who was once based in Nauru said Tuesday that the tiny Pacific nation had proved itself unfit to house refugees by depriving its residents of an appeals court.

Nick Martin worked as a doctor at an Australia-run immigration camp on Nauru in 2016 and 2017 before becoming a vocal critic of the conditions that the estimated 1,000 asylum seekers there endure.

Martin, now a permanent resident of Australia, said Nauru was attempting to avoid outside scrutiny by depriving its own 10,000 citizens as well as the asylum seekers with the option of appealing Nauru Supreme Court decisions to the Australian High Court.

Martin also said the Australia government would welcome asylum seekers on Nauru no longer seeking help from Australia's justice system.

"Nauru has shown itself to be an inadequate place to house refugees, and anything that allows Australia to distance itself from Nauru when it comes to refugees and asylum seekers, Australia will welcome it," Martin said.

Australia has been hearing Nauru court appeals since 1976.

But Nauru gave its former colonial master 90 days' notice in December that it was ending that agreement.

As a result, the High Court has not been able to hear Nauru appeals since March 13.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said in a statement that her country supported the decision ahead of Nauru celebrating the 50th anniversary of its independence on Jan. 31, 2018.

A Nauru government official could not be immediately contacted for comment on Tuesday.

Australia refuses to resettle refugees who attempt to reach its shores by boat. It pays Nauru and Papua New Guinea to keep them in immigration camps that have been widely criticized by rights groups.

The United States has agreed to accept up to 1,250 refugees from Nauru and Papua New Guinea, and by last month had resettled 200 of them.

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