Immigration centre hit by sex abuse allegations
Published 11/08/2016 | 02:30
Asylum seekers were subjected to sexual abuse and assault by immigration officials paid by Australia while living on the remote Pacific island of Nauru, according to a series of leaked documents.
The documents, obtained by 'The Guardian', lift the lid on the distressing conditions for asylum seekers hoping to settle in Australia. Nauru has long been known for its harsh conditions.
Last week Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International published reports into the remote Pacific island - the third-smallest independent country in the world - which has accepted aid money from Australia in return for housing asylum seeker camps.
They claim that Australia turns a blind eye to the abuse in order to discourage others.
"Few other countries go to such lengths to deliberately inflict suffering on people seeking safety and freedom," said Anna Neistat, senior director for research at Amnesty International, who conducted the investigation with a researcher from Human Rights Watch.
On Tuesday 'The Guardian' published an analysis of more than 2,000 leaked incident reports, covering the period from May 2013 to October 2015.
As of the end of June, 442 people - 338 men, 55 women and 49 children - were being held in the Nauru regional processing centre.
And the files show that children are vastly over-represented in the reports of complaints. More than half of the 2,116 reports - a total of 1,086 incidents - involve children, although children made up only about 18pc of those in detention on Nauru during the time covered by the reports.
The documents record a guard allegedly grabbing a boy and threatening to kill him, and guards allegedly slapping children in the face. In September 2014, a teacher reported that a girl had requested a four-minute shower instead of a two-minute shower, and her request was accepted on condition of sexual favours.
Some reports contain distressing examples of behaviour by traumatised children.
According to a report from September 2014, a girl had sewn her lips together.
In July that year a child under the age of 10 undressed and invited a group of adults to insert their fingers into her vagina; in February 2015 a young girl gestured to her vagina and said a male asylum seeker "cut her from under".
Seven reports of sexual assault of children, 59 reports of assault on children, 30 of self-harm involving children and 159 of threatened self-harm involving children are recorded.
In one report, an asylum seeker described being told she was "on a list" written by local Nauruan guards naming single women they were "waiting for".
"She has received offers to get her pregnant when she gets out," the caseworker wrote.
Australian taxpayers fund the Nauru centre, as well as a second site on the island of Manus, part of Papua New Guinea, at a cost of $1.2bn a year.
A spokesperson for the Department of Immigration and Border Protection told 'The Guardian': "Alleged incidents within the regional processing centre are investigated and where appropriate referred to the Nauru police force for investigation. (© Daily Telegraph London)