SYDNEY: Thousands of leaked reports detailing allegations of sexual assault, child abuse and self-harm in Australian immigration facilities on Nauru were published 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 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”.
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.
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.
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”.
“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’s Anna Neistat said Wednesday.
UNICEF Australia Wednesday also renewed calls for a permanent resettlement solution, saying there was “undeniable, cumulative evidence” suggesting that transferred children were not safe on Nauru.