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Revealed: Child abuse, assault and sexual bribery on Australia's refugee island

Over 2,000 incident reports detailing the abuse of asylum-seekers were leaked to The Guardian Australia.

File image: Sri Lankan asylum seekers who were caught in Indonesian waters while trying to sail to Australia hold up posters during a demonstration.
File image: Sri Lankan asylum seekers who were caught in Indonesian waters while trying to sail to Australia hold up posters during a demonstration.
Image: Associated Press

THOUSANDS OF LEAKED reports detailing allegations of sexual assault, child abuse and self-harm in Australian immigration facilities on Nauru were published today, prompting human 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 of Nauru or Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island, even if they are refugees.

While the flow of asylum boats to Australia has dried up, some 442 people remain on tiny Nauru and almost double that on Manus, refusing to return home and denied resettlement in Australia.

More than 2,000 incident reports leaked to The Guardian Australia include allegations of asylum-seekers, including children, on Nauru facing assaults, sexual abuse and mental distress.

The reports allege such incidents 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 sowing 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”.

PastedImage-95123 Australia has produced ads such as this to dissuade refugees from trying to get to the country. Source: The Guradian

Government response

The Guardian said that the reports, which are published in a 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, The Guardian said its analysis of the 2,116 reports showed that children were the subject of more than half of the reports.

Source: The Guardian/YouTube

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the material published 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.

Immigration policy

Despite criticism of its immigration policy, Australia’s government has strongly defended it, saying it has halted the spate of boat arrivals, and drownings, of earlier years.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch last week said asylum-seekers on Nauru suffered “severe abuse, inhumane treatment, and neglect”.

Senior researcher with Amnesty Anna Neistat said:

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.

Today UNICEF Australia also renewed calls for a permanent resettlement solution, saying there was “undeniable, cumulative evidence” suggesting that transferred children were not safe on Nauru.

- © AFP, 2016

Read: ‘Stripped, tear-gassed and strapped to a chair’: Shock at treatment of children in Australian detention centre

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