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Solomon Islands: Detainees receive family visits

11-03-2004 News Release 04/32

From December to early March, families from outlying areas for the first time visited persons detained in Honiara Rove Central Prison. A total of 36 inmates received a visit from family members, an event arranged by the ICRC office in Honiara in conjunction with the Solomon Islands Red Cross.

Communications in the Solomons are made difficult by the 800 km of ocean over which the archipelago stretches. Many detainees have their homes in distant islands from which transport is further hampered by poverty. The ICRC and the Solomon Islands Red Cross were concerned to restore family links for many of the people held in Honiara.

The most challenging part of the project was to inform families living on remote islands, where there are no telephones, of the opportunity to visit their loved ones. Radio communication first had to be established with local Red Cross branches, churches, rural clinics and so on – frequently a complicated and time-consuming process. 

There was also the specific difficulty of reassuring persons from communities which had been involved in the fighting of recent years that it was safe for them to come to the capital. With help from the Solomon Islands Red Cross, the ICRC arranged for the visitors to be brought from Guadalcanal’s isolated Weathercoast and from other islands in the chain. The visitors, some of whom had never been to Honiara, remained on board when their vessels arrived, disembarking only once they saw the red cross emblem on the vehicle waiting to collect them.

The programme went smoothly, owing partly to permission from the prison authorities to extend the duration of the visits from 30 minutes to two hours in view of the event’s unusual nature. Further visits are planned for mid-year.

 For further information, please contact:  

 Greg Clewley, ICRC Suva, tel. ++679 3 302 156