Island of horror: abuse at Australia’s Nauru detention centre exposed

A cache of 2000 reports pertaining to Australia’s infamous asylum seeker detention centre on the island-nation of Nauru has found its way into the hands of UK newspaper, The Guardian. The leaked documents are sickening, shocking and shameful, which illustrates the scale and severity of the trauma and abuse inflicted on detainees, especially children.

The Guardian says the reports detail cases of assaults, sexual abuse, self-harm attempts, child abuse and poor living conditions endured by asylum seekers held by the Australian government. In the files there are 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. 

The reports—half of which involve children, whom make up 18 percent of detainees—plainly show that young boys and girls are suffering from intense trauma and mental instability. In February 2015 a young girl gestured to her vagina and said a male asylum seeker “cut her from under”; in July 2014 a child under the age of 10 undressed and invited a group of adults to insert their fingers into her vagina. 

As of June this year, 442 people—338 men, 55 women and 49 children—were held in the “regional processing centre” on Nauru, an island-nation of around 10,000 people that detractors have called a “client-state” of Australia. The centre is run by Broadspectrum and security operations are subcontracted to Wilson Security (yes, the same Wilson you pay for parking). It is unclear how many of the reports were subsequently investigated. They show that in 2015 the number of serious incidents increased. 

The Australian Senate is likely to launch an inquiry. The leak comes after a report into abuses against inmates at Australia’s corrections facilities in the Northern Territories sparked a royal commission investigation. 

Following the release of the documents, hundreds of Australians have protested and the United Nations and human rights NGOs have called for the detention centre to be closed. A spokeswoman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ravina Shamdasani, said the Nauru revelations are consistent with UN findings from recent years. Shamdasani also said: “We have consistently called on the authorities in Nauru and Australia to put an end to the model of processing and keeping migrants offshore.”

This article first appeared in Issue 20, 2016.
Posted 10:48am Sunday 21st August 2016 by George Elliott.