The world may have mostly forgotten about the horrific abuses being carried out at Australia’s offshore immigrant camps, but scores of asylum seekers are still suffering widespread torture and violations of human rights on the Pacific island of Nauru.
While news about incidents of abuse against immigrants often surface on social media before getting lost in torrent of other issues, a recently released cache of leaked documents, compiled by former health care and immigration workers-turned-whistleblowers, detailed how children at the island are facing a life-threatening crisis.
The report, provided to Australian broadcaster ABC, claimed a “shocking spate of self-harm incidents” among young refugees detained on Nauru.
Another social worker, Fiona Owens, employed by IHMS as the child mental health team leader from May to July 2018, alleged she had witnessed alarming rates of self-harm among refugee children.
“The only thing a lot of the children are thinking about is how to die. They Google it on the internet,” a social worker named Fiona Owens, who was employed by the International Health and Medical Services as the child mental health team leader, told the network. “The extreme possibilities are death of children, death of adults, continual death of adults and children.”
The report discussed an incident from earlier this year in June, where a 14-year-old refugee child “poured petrol over herself and had a lighter.”
In a similar incident that took place quite recently, a 12-year-old girl was taken to Nauru hospital with several injuries after she allegedly attempted to set herself on fire – a scene that was witnessed by many other children.
The documents also detailed another suicide attempt where a 10-year-old migrant child “attempted to self-harm by ingesting some sharp metal objects” consistent with the wire on fences.
“Am I concerned that children could die in Nauru, that some of these refugee children could die? I'm absolutely concerned about that. I'm reasonably surprised that no-one has,” Dr. Vernon Reynolds, a former child psychiatrist on the island employed by the Australian government, told ABC. “What we see is these young people and adults basically withdraw from life and generally take to their bed and their whole functioning deteriorates.”
He said the children are showing signs of trauma, which isn’t surprising given the reports of horrible torture and violence at the notorious detention camp.
“They stop eating much, they stop drinking much, they stop looking after their day-to-day self cares,” he added. “They stop interacting with people, they stop talking, they stop doing anything they might have done for interest and enjoyment and they really just exist in their bed.”
In 2016, the United States and Australia reached an agreement to resettle Nauru refugees. However, as of May 2018, more than 900 asylum seekers are still reportedly present on the island.
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