Rights groups slam Australian government over asylum-seeker abuse

Rights groups on Wednesday strongly criticized the Australian government's policy of operating offshore detention centres, after leaked internal reports from Nauru revealed widespread abuse, particularly against children.

More than 2,000 leaked incident reports from August 2013 to October 2015 published by The Guardian Australia document the abuse and trauma of asylum-seekers being held on the remote Pacific island.

Rights groups denounced the treatment of the asylum-seekers - calling it "deliberate harm" - as well as the secretiveness of the Australian government regarding conditions in the centres.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the government would "carefully examine" the published material "to see if there are complaints there, or issues there that were not properly addressed."

"It's important to stress that incident reports in themselves aren't a reporting of fact. They are reporting that an allegation has been made," Treasurer Scott Morrison, a former immigration minister, told reporters in Sydney alongside Turnbull.

One complaint made by an asylum-seeker said that a security woman had "shone her torch in my daughter's private parts."

Another report from last year said a female asylum-seeker was told she was on a list of women that guards wanted to have sex with once they were released for resettlement.

More than half of the incident reports involve children, despite children making up only 18 per cent of the population in the detention centre, The Guardian Australia said.

The detention centre facilities are managed by private companies. The asylum-seekers, most of whom are found to be refugees, are placed in indefinite detention while their cases are being processed.

The reports were written by guards, caseworkers and teachers.

A Department of Immigration and Border Protection spokesperson said the alleged incidents had all been reported earlier "and where appropriate referred to the Nauru Police for investigation."

Amnesty International said the leaked reports showed "a system of routine dysfunction and cruelty that is ... dizzying in its scale and utterly damning for the Australian authorities who tried so hard to maintain a veil of secrecy."

Executive Director of Human Rights Law Centre, Hugh de Kretser said the system set up by the government "inflicts tremendous harm on innocent people, including children."

"We can’t turn a blind eye. We have to end this now by bringing them here to safety . Abuse thrives where there’s secrecy. These reports confirm that," de Krester said.

The Human Rights Director at the NGO GetUp, Shen Narayanasamy, called the centres, "abusive black-sites." "The scale of this abuse detailed in these files is gutting . It’s worse than we previously knew," Narayanasamy said.

Australia intercepts all migrants travelling by sea and either turns their boats back or processes their asylum claims offshore in places such as Papua New Guinea or on Nauru.

Nauru is the world's smallest island state, with just 10,000 residents, and it depends heavily on Australia for aid and supplies. As of June, 442 people, including 55 women and 49 children, were held in the Nauru processing centre.

Last update: Wed, 10/08/2016 - 09:07
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