Abuse rife in Australian immigration centre: leaked reports
10 August 2016, 21:15
Sydney - More than 2 000 leaked reports detailing
allegations of sexual assault, child abuse and self-harm in Australian immigration
centres on Nauru were published on Wednesday, prompting rights groups to renew
calls for refugees to be resettled elsewhere.
Under Canberra's current policy, asylum-seekers
arriving by boat are sent to the remote Pacific island nation of Nauru or to
Papua New Guinea's Manus Island.
They will not be allowed to resettle in Australia
even if they eventually win refugee status.
While the flow of asylum boats to Australia has
dried up, about 442 people remain on tiny Nauru and almost double that number are
The incident reports leaked to The Guardian
Australia include allegations that asylum-seekers, including children, on Nauru
face assaults, sexual abuse and mental distress.
The reports allege incidents such as guards
threatening a boy with death and only allowing a young woman a longer shower in
return for sexual favours.
Mental stress caused by prolonged detention was
deemed to be the cause of alleged cases of self-harm, including a woman trying
to hang herself and a girl sewing her lips together.
One girl wrote in her school book in 2014 that
"she was tired, doesn't like camp and wants to die". The report said
she wrote: "I want DEATH" and "I need death".
Allegations, not fact, says government
The Guardian said the reports, published in
redacted form to remove identifiers, were written by staff in the detention
centre and were the largest cache of leaked documents released from inside
Australia's immigration regime.
While some of the incidents had been reported by
the media before or detailed in inquiries, The Guardian said its analysis of
the 2 116 reports showed that children were the subject of more than half of
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the
material would be examined "to see if there are any complaints there or
issues there that were not properly addressed".
But the government stressed the reports were
allegations, not findings of fact, adding Canberra would continue to support
Nauru to provide for the welfare of those on the island.
Australia's government has strongly defended its
immigration policy despite criticism, saying it has halted the spate of boat
arrivals - and drownings - of earlier years.
But rights groups called for Australia to take in
those asylum-seekers still on Nauru.
"Australia's offshore processing of refugees
must end, and all of the refugees and asylum-seekers on Nauru and Manus Island
must be resettled immediately," Amnesty International's Anna Neistat said
The leak prompted former workers from Nauru
including social workers, teachers and child protection specialists from Save
the Children to come forward to corroborate the reports.
"These incident reports were not leaked by us,
or by any person known to us," former case worker Natasha Blucher said.
"However, now that this information is on the public record, it enables us
to speak out in an unprecedented way."
The Australian government said the documents were
evidence of the "rigorous reporting procedures that are in place in the
regional processing centre".
But Former Save the Children teacher Jane Willey,
who recognised her own handwriting in some of the reports, said the published
data was nowhere near the full extent of those written.
"What you are seeing here is just the tip of
the iceberg," said Willey, who worked on Nauru between July 2014 and March
Willey said seeing children deteriorate over time
was one of the worst aspects of her work.
"Seeing children refer to themselves as a boat
number, seeing evidence of self-harm... I dread to think of how those kids are
doing," she told AFP.