Foreign policy and defense
Nauru is a nation in Micronesia. Its capital city Yaren District. Nauru has a close partnership with Australia, which oversees the country’s defense and foreign policy interests as well as being the largest aid donor and most important trading partner. In exchange for financial compensation, Nauru houses a detention camp for migrants who were stopped offshore when trying to make their way to Australia.
A first Australian detention camp was on the island in 2001-2008. The camp was initially set up for about 300 refugees, mostly Afghans, who had been rescued from a sinking boat as they tried to make their way to Australia. Nauru then pledged to host up to 1,500 asylum seekers on behalf of Australia at any time. However, the procedure drew criticism and from 2005 only a handful of interns were held in the camp. At the beginning of 2008, it was completely shut down by the then newly elected Social Democratic Government in Australia. For Naurus, this meant that about 100 people lost their jobs.
- Countryaah: Overview of business holidays and various national observances in Nauru for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025.
In September 2012, the camp was reopened after a new similar agreement was signed with Australia. In November of that year, as many as 300 of the then 370 refugees (mainly from Sri Lanka and Afghanistan) hunger strikes in protest against poor living conditions and extended asylum processes. The UN Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, called the hunger strike an expression of the “unbearable living conditions” prevailing in the Nauru camp. The human rights organization Amnesty International also described the situation of the refugees in the camp as “cruel and humiliating”.
In July 2013, riots broke out in the camp (see Current policy). In March 2015, an independent investigation, published by the Australian Government, was published in which evidence was presented that physical and sexual abuse was committed against the refugees. In August, the Australian Senate advised the government not to allow children to stay in Nauru camp. In August 2016, the British newspaper The Guardian reported continued abuse of women and children. The information had been leaked to the newspaper from people inside the camp and consisted of around 2,000 reports of abuse and more. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights also appealed to Nauru and Australia not to allow children to stay in the camp.
In September 2014, Australia signed an agreement with Cambodia, which promised assistance to grant permanent residence permits to refugees who agreed to move from Nauru. Only seven refugees agreed to move to Cambodia before the agreement expired. Four of them later chose to return to their home countries.
In November 2016, Australia and the United States signed an agreement which meant that up to 1,500 asylum seekers in the Australian camps in Nauru and Papua New Guinea would be granted a residence permit in the United States. By February 2019, 342 refugees in Nauru, including 37 children, had moved to the United States. Around 400 refugees remained on the island. Among them were no children.
In October 2017, Doctors Without Borders was ordered to leave Nauru, after the relief organization reported how the living conditions of the interns had deteriorated sharply. Doctors Without Borders compared the mental status of the refugees with a mental condition that torture victims often exhibit. The organization estimated that around a third of the refugees, including children, had attempted suicide.
Nauru also has close links with other countries in the region, mainly New Zealand, Fiji and Japan.
From 2014, Nauru has been criticized internationally, mainly from the UN, EU, US and New Zealand, for the government trying to influence the country’s judiciary and stop the media from reviewing government policy. In September 2015, New Zealand withdrew its assistance to the Naurus judiciary on the grounds that it had been used to shut down opposition MPs and to introduce laws that restrict fundamental freedoms and rights, especially the media freedom.
Like many other small island states in the Pacific, Nauru maintains diplomatic relations with Taiwan. However, between 2002 and 2005, the island had relations with China instead. The exchange back and forth can be seen as a way to try to exploit the “dollar diplomacy” that Taiwan and China are engaged in in the region.
For similar reasons, in December 2009, Nauru acknowledged the Georgian breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, in exchange for Russian aid for port facility maintenance.
Since 1999, Nauru has been a member of the Commonwealth and the UN. Between 2006 and 2011, the country was partially suspended from the Commonwealth due to unpaid debts (see Economic overview). Nauru is also a member of the Pacific Community, the Pacific Islands Forum and the Asian Development Bank. In 2016, Nauru also became a member of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Within the UN, Nauru has primarily worked to raise awareness of the effects of climate change and rising sea levels on small island states such as Nauru.
Nauru has no own armed forces. Australia manages the country’s defense.