Two yachts stocked with gifts for Nauru’s refugee population were turned away from the island this week, the conclusion of a 4000-mile journey protesting John Howard’s Pacific solution.

Gay activist and skipper Lance Gowland told Sydney Star Observer via satellite phone the protest was a success, despite being unable to deliver the gifts.

I think the whole reason Howard got the Pacific solution was to hide his crimes and hide what he was doing from the Australian people, like Baxter [detention centre] in the desert, Gowland said. It’s Howard who’s to blame. We think people will see that and see how inhumane he is.

The Eureka and the One Off departed from Sydney in May as the Flotilla of Hope, with the intention of delivering teddy bears, sporting and educational items to refugees on the island. Currently 264 refugees are held on Nauru, 93 of them children.

The flotilla arrived last Sunday -“ International Refugee Day -“ and were met by six patrol boats and told to move away or face arrest. Requests to speak with representatives from the detention centre were denied, as were offers to deliver the gifts. The Nauruan government had previously refused to grant visas to the crews, although Gowland blames the Australian government for forcing their position.

We were only loaded up with presents and they met us with men in uniforms in fast motorboats, surrounding us and threatening us with arrests and confiscating our yachts, Gowland said. Excuse me -“ we were loaded up with gifts for refugees. The worst part of it all was it was Inter-national Refugee Day.

The One Off is now headed to Vanuatu and Gowland told the Star the Eureka is en route to the Solomon Islands before returning to Sydney.

The crews have since received offers from the federal government to deliver the gifts on their behalf, which Gowland said was met with scepticism.

We think the government is trying to quieten the dreadful publicity it’s been getting over this. But on the other hand the gifts are for the refugees and for the children and they should get them and that’s really important. So we will of course try to get the gifts to them, even if it means hiring a container or something, he said.

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