It’s not as if the world isn’t aware of the horrific abuses being carried out at Australia’s offshore detention camps but the recently leaked “largest cache of documents” detailing widespread torture against asylum seekers on the Pacific island of Nauru might force the Australian government to, at least, give some answers.
“The Nauru files,” as published by The Guardian, reveal how assaults, sexual abuse, rape, and self-harm among women and children are commonplace at the center, which is known as the dumping ground for asylum-seekers.
The damning 8,000 pages include 1,086 incidents involving children, who, by the way, form only 18 percent of Nauru’s total 442 detainees. There are seven reports of sexual assault of children, and 59 reports about assault on children, 159 of threatened self-harm involving children and 30 more about actual self-harm.
“The reports range from a guard allegedly grabbing a boy and threatening to kill him once he is living in the community to guards allegedly slapping children in the face,” the Guardian reports. Other disturbing incidents included an account of a traumatized girl who sewed her lips while a guard laughed at her. Another was about a child under the age of 10 who allegedly “undressed and invited a group of adults to insert their fingers into her vagina.”
Australia is notorious for its “boat turnback” policy that forces asylum-seekers arriving on Australian shores to return or seek refugee somewhere else, mainly in detention camps like Nauru or another one on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea.
Australia is among the several developed countries that have barely done anything to deal with the ongoing refugee crisis in Europe. In fact, the government has been spending millions in attempts to illegally return the refugees and discourage them from embarking on a journey to the country.
Several international organizations, including the United Nations, regularly call out the Australian government over its alleged treatment of refugees but to no avail.
The abuses detailed in the Nauru files have previously been exposed in multiple reports and independent investigations by human rights groups, though not on such a large scale.
But Australia, a country that’s often ranked as the world's happiest nation among developed economies, has repeatedly ignored all allegations and it seems that’s exactly how the Australian government plans to deal with the Nauru documents.
After The Guardian published the Nauru files, the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection said in a statement: "The Australian government continues to support the Nauruan government to provide for the health, welfare and safety of all transferees and refugees.”
The statement also claimed many of the incidents reported in the documents were “unconfirmed allegations or uncorroborated statements and claims.”
The Australian government has referred the alleged incidents to the Nauru Police Force for investigation. However, keeping in mind the magnitude of the collective allegations and reports so far, it doesn’t seem enough. Not this time.
It’ll definitely take more than the local Nauru police to clear up the clouds of confusion and mystery surrounding the detention center.
Banner/thumbnail credit: Reuters, Tony Gentile