The Guardian has unveiled a cache of more than 2000 leaked reports detailing the litany of abuses inflicted upon women and children in the Nauru offshore detention centre. They have also said it is the largest document dump from inside Australia’s asylum seeker regime.
The facility – which has already generated substantial controversy due to its appalling conditions and reports of inmates self-harming – now faces allegations that it suppressed several acts of sexual violence against asylum seekers.
In one incident, a woman who was raped in the camp was told by a cultural adviser for Wilson Security that what had happened to her was “very common (in Australia)…and people don’t get punished.”
The adviser also stated that she had to teach her son to “treat this man nicely.” Another woman saw self-harm as her only protection against men who would “touch her body.”
Physical abuse of minors is also common in the facility, with accounts of guards beating and threatening to kill children. While there are only fifty children in the offshore detention centre, a huge number of them feature in the incident reports. Some children have sewn their lips shut as a form of protest against their continued detainment at the centre.
PM Malcolm Turnbull has said that the reports will be examined, but that the ultimate responsibility for dealing with them falls to the Nauruan government. Scott Morrison has jumped to discredit the allegations.
“It’s important to stress that incident reports of themselves aren’t a reporting of fact, they are reporting that an allegation has been made of a particular action.”
While this is technically true, smoke usually implies fire. The sheer number of allegations – usually more than fifty in any given month – should be taken as evidence that there is something seriously wrong with Nauru. Shadow Defence Minister Richard Marles has his doubts that governmental oversight was ever a priority at the detention facility.
“The government could be talking to Nauru actively to arrange systems of independent oversight for the facility, now it’s not clear to me that those conversations have ever occurred between the Australian government and the Nauruan government.”
Human rights and advocacy groups are calling on the government’s lack of effort in their failed detention centre program with these revealed documents as evidence. Human Rights Watch Australian director Elaine Pearson called the files a “disturbing picture” of the abuse on Nauru.
“This policy is inhumane and irresponsible, and it means refugees and asylum seekers remain vulnerable to further abuse and mistreatment,” she said.
Teachers at the facility have also voiced concerns for the educational and emotional development of children detainees. Young asylum seekers initially expressed great interest in learning and play, but as the months wore on their hopes for resettlement in Australia diminished and incidences of self-harm & depression increased. The teachers believe that this is related to the constant scrutiny that children are subjected to.
“That feeling that the children had that they were criminals, because they were escorted everywhere … they were wanded in, wanded out; their bags were checked.”
The Nauru offshore detention centre is not technically a concentration camp, but it certainly seems like one. No country can call itself ‘first world’ when it subjects vulnerable people to this kind of abuse. It is important for the Australian people to be on the right side of history and call for an end to the indefinite detention of asylum seekers.