Two types of colonial and neocolonial extractions in Nauru are shown in a drawing by N H D M, left. The bottom half of the image depicts phosphate mining by colonial powers, which decimated most of the island nation starting in the 1900s; the top half shows locations of the asylum-seeker detention facilities Australia established as part of its offshore anti-immigration project, known as "Pacific Solution," which was established in 2001.
Nauru has been subjected to colonization since at least the late nineteenth century, when it was annexed by Germany. By 1906, a full-scale mining operation of phosphate began in a deal between the Germans and Britain’s Pacific Phosphate Company, drastically transforming the nation’s terrain. When the country gained independence in 1968, it had no natural resources or land left to cultivate. As a result, in 2001 leaders agreed to begin hosting detained asylum seekers for the Australian government, holding up to 1,200 people—an arrangement that led to various human rights violations.
The photo at right shows an Australian refugee settlement camp surrounded by the pinnacle landscape produced by phosphate mining.
Image credits, left to right: N H D M; MIKE LEYRAL/AFP/Getty Images