As of 2013, the country of Australia has taken a hard line stance on allowing refugees coming from such volatile locations as Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka from entering the island nation via often dangerously overpacked and rickety boats and rafts. The Australian government would like for the public to believe that it’s “No Way” policies of detaining refugees is a way to save lives that could be lost on such dangerous voyages. But the refugees that are caught never make it to Australia. They’ll never even have a hearing or chance to settle there. Instead, these people fleeing from violence and persecution are shipped off to a pair of islands off the coast of Papua New Guinea – Manus and the Republic of Nauru. They are detained indefinitely with no idea of when they could be released or settled, living in tents on secluded islands with little to no hope of a better life.
Australia’s human rights policies and their reputation as one of the worst countries in the world for a refugee to try to enter have long been talked about, but never fully exposed as well as they are in Eva Orner’s incendiary and vital documentary Chasing Asylum.
Orner, with the help of some brave souls who smuggled cameras into the Nauru facilities while working, takes us inside these camps. It’s immediate to see just how depressing and harsh the existence of these refugees has gotten. These facilities are fear mongering deterrents designed to make the life of a refugee worse than wherever they were trying to escape.
Orner wisely goes beyond just looking at the operations at the camp in a verite style. She also talks with former social workers, camp directors, and police officials who were threatened with imprisonment if they ever tried to reveal what was happening there.