SYDNEY: Nauru Tuesday dismissed as “fabricated” claims that asylum-seekers faced violence, abuse and humiliating treatment while living in Australian immigration facilities on the Pacific island, saying refugees had become political pawns.
The release of more than 2,000 leaked reports of incidents on Nauru detailing allegations of widespread abuse and self-harm, including children wanting to kill themselves, have sparked new calls for a parliamentary inquiry.
Hitting back at the claims contained in the leaked documents, which date from 2013 to 2015, the Nauruan government said asylum-seekers had made up most of them in hope of being relocated to Australia.
“Most refugee & advocate claims on Nauru fabricated to achieve goal to get to Aust. So called “reports” based solely on these claims,” the government tweeted on Tuesday.
In a second tweet, the republic accused the Australian left-wing media, Greens MPs and refugee advocates of “using refugees as pawns for their political agendas. Very sad”.
Australia, which since 2013 has denied asylum-seekers arriving by boat resettlement even if they are found to be refugees and sends them instead to Nauru or Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island, has also expressed scepticism about the reported incidents.
Australia’s Immigration Minister Peter Dutton last week said some of events reported in the leaked files involved “false allegations of sexual assault”.
“Because in the end people have paid money to people smugglers and they want to come to our country,” he said.
“Some people have even gone to the extent of self-harming and people have self-immolated in an effort to get to Australia and certainly some have made false allegations.”
But the documents have sparked demands for greater scrutiny of operations in Nauru, where some asylum-seekers have lived for three years, with refugee advocates and journalists rarely granted access.
A report based on interviews last month with those detained on Nauru conducted by researchers from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch found that asylum-seekers and refugees on the island suffered “severe abuse, inhumane treatment, and neglect”.
The report accused Australia’s government of failing to address serious abuses as it pursued what appeared to be a “deliberate policy to deter further asylum seekers from arriving in the country by boat”.
Offshore detention has bipartisan support in Australia, but doctors, lawyers and refugee advocates have strongly criticised the camps, arguing that some asylum-seekers suffer from mental health problems due to their prolonged and indefinite detention.
In April, a young Iranian refugee died after setting himself on fire on Nauru.
Canberra has long defended its policy of denying asylum-seekers resettlement in Australia, saying it has prevented deaths at sea and secured the nation’s borders.