The Australian government is purposefully ignoring the severe refugee abuse and violence on the remote Pacific island nation of Nauru, according to two top human rights groups.
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have published a damning new report highlighting the inhumane treatment of refugees at the offshore detention center. The organizations claim the appalling abuse is part of Australia’s refugee policy, meant to deter more people from seeking asylum in the country.
Over 1,200 men, women and children, forcibly moved to the island, are living in an open prison where living conditions are worse than imaginable.
“Australia’s atrocious treatment of the refugees on Nauru over the past three years has taken an enormous toll on their well-being,” said Human Rights Watch senior counsel Michael Bochenek, who went undercover to conduct the investigations. “Driving adult and even child refugees to the breaking point with sustained abuse appears to be one of Australia’s aims on Nauru.”
Bochenek was one of the two researchers sent to the island. Although they both had legal visas, the authorities were completely unaware of the purpose of their visit.
The government Down Under has “gone to great lengths” to prohibit the flow of information, according to the report, including banning social media in the facility. However, a group of detained teens has been using Facebook in secret to share pictures and discuss the living conditions in Nauru.
“People here don't have a real life. We are just surviving. We are dead souls in living bodies,” an asylum seeker told the researchers. “We are just husks. We don't have any hope or motivation.”
The locals on the island assault the refugees on daily basis, but the police rarely punish them. Suicide attempts are also at an all-time high and people, including young children, have no access to medical treatment, according to the joint report.
“Australia’s policy of exiling asylum seekers who arrive by boat is cruel in the extreme,” said Anna Neistat, senior director for research at Amnesty International, who also visited Nauru. “Few other countries go to such lengths to deliberately inflict suffering on people seeking safety and freedom.”
In their widespread allegations, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have accused the country of violating basic human rights by forcibly transferring refugees to Nauru and detaining them for prolonged periods in inhuman conditions.
The groups have also slammed the government for denying the asylum seekers appropriate medical care, holding it responsible for a serious degradation of their mental health.
In 2015, the Australian government reportedly spent $415 million on its Nauru operations — nearly $350,000 for each person held on the island in that year alone. However, instead of using the funds to support them, the country used it to stop more refugees from arriving there by boats.