Nauru country profile

  • 4 October 2015
  • From the section Asia
Nauru map

Named Pleasant Island by its first European visitors, the former British colony of Nauru is the world's smallest republic.

In recent years it has often been in the headlines over controversies surrounding the Australian-run asylum-seeker detention camp, with allegations of human rights abuses and overcrowding.

The detention camp is a major employer and source of income on the island. Since 2013 Australia has sent all asylum-seekers arriving by boat into detention on Nauru and Papua New Guinea, and denied them resettlement in Australia despite an outcry from rights groups.

Nauru is a speck in the Pacific about 3,000 km (1,800 miles) northeast of Australia with 10,000 citizens and little economy since the depletion of its rich phosphate mines in the 1980s.

Phosphate mining and exports resumed in 2005. The government estimates that the secondary phosphate deposits have a remaining life of about 30 years. The island has become heavily dependent upon aid.


Republic of Nauru

Administrative centre: Yaren

  • Population 10,000

  • Area 21 sq km (8 sq miles)

  • Major languages Nauruan, English

  • Major religion Christianity

  • Life expectancy 55 years (men), 57 years (women)

  • Currency Australian dollar

Getty Images


President: Baron Waqa

Image copyright Getty Images

Baron Waqa was sworn in as president in June 2013 after parliament chose him as its leader.

In 2015 New Zealand suspended foreign aid to Nauru saying it could no longer support the island's legal system, which had been used to suspend opposition leaders and enact laws clamping down on basic freedoms.


Nauru has effectively banned foreign journalists - the Guardian reports - making it difficult for refugees to explain their plight, or for the Australian public to scrutinise the consequences of its government's immigration policy.


Some key dates in the history of Nauru:

1798 - British navigator Captain John Fearn, sailing past Nauru from New Zealand to the China Seas, names it Pleasant Island.

1888 - Nauru annexed by Germany as part of the Marshall Islands Protectorate.

1900 - British company discovers phosphate on the island.

1919 - League of Nations grants joint mandate to Australia, Great Britain and New Zealand.

1942-45 - Nauru occupied by the Japanese.

1947 - Nauru made UN trust territory under Australian administration.

1968 - Independence.

2001 - Australia pays Nauru to hold asylum seekers picked up trying to enter Australia illegally.

2003 - Nauru agrees to US demands to wind up its offshore banking industry amid money-laundering allegations.

2008 - Australia shuts detention centre.

2012 - Australia opens a new detention camp for asylum-seekers on Nauru under its new offshore immigration policy.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Australia's detention facilities have come under scrutiny following allegations of torture, sexual abuse and overcrowding

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