Australia’s Immigration Minister responds to leaked incident reports from the Nauru Regional Processing Centre

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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

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Today, 103 current and previous employees from Australia‘s offshore processing facilities on Nauru and Manus Island signed and released a letter, urging for the detained refugees to be granted asylum in Australia instantly, in order to assure their safety. Those supporting the letter include: case workers, teachers, doctors, social workers from Broadspectrum (previously Transfield), Save the Children and other contracted workers for the Nauru and Manus Regional Processing Centres.

Map of Nauru Island
Image: IU.S. Central Intelligence Agency.

The letter comes in response to {{w:The Guardian}} publishing over 2,000 leaked incident reports (the Nauru Files), which totalled over 8,000 pages from the Nauru Regional Processing Centre, last Wednesday. The Nauru files revealed the poor treatment and living conditions endured by asylum seekers, some of which have been detained for three years.

The Guardian’s analysis shows children are involved in 51.3% of the incident reports, despite only consisting of 18% of people in the detention facility during the time of reports, between May 2013 to October 2015. The leaked files were published by the Guardian, who claimed the Australian public has a right to know.

A Senate Inquiry has since been proposed by the Australian Labor Party, but the current and former employees involved in the letter believe it to be an inadequate move. In the letter, former child protection officer from Save the Children, Toby O’Brien said the evidence brought forth from the Nauru Files is “overwhelmingly clear” and action was required immediately. The Nauru and Manus staff also said many had given evidence at the last Senate Inquiry, which was ignored as conditions didn’t improve and the mental health of the detained asylum seekers continued to deteriorate on both Nauru and for the males held on the Manus Island Regional Processing Centre.

Last Thursday, Australia’s immigration minister, Peter Dutton, dismissed the asylum seeker’s reports of sexual assault, child abuse and self harm; which were exposed in the Nauru Files. Dutton disregarded the seriousness of the abuse, claiming it had been already reported. He said he was aware of some of the incidents reported, but accused asylum seekers of fabricating sexual abuse reports; and setting themselves on fire in an attempt to seek asylum in Australia. He has also insinuated that the claims are fabricated due to asylum seekers paying people smugglers to gain access to Australia.

Chris Lougheed, The Deputy Education Manager with Save the Children, who reviewed and submitted some of the incident reports within the Nauru Files, rebuked Dutton’s comments and said “these reports are accurate observations written by experienced professionals.” Lougheed also demanded for the Australian government to take immediate responsibility and release the asylum seekers to Australia.

Nauru’s detention camp had previously been shrouded in secrecy, as local journalists are rarely granted permission to film or interview asylum seekers, and foreign journalists are required to pay an $8,000 application fee to visit and report from the remote island. Yesterday, the Nauruan government’s official Twitter account tweeted that the reports were false and being used for a political agenda.

In response to the Nauru files; human rights, legal, religious, and medical groups have also demanded for the Australian government to end what they consider inhumane treatment of asylum seekers in the offshore processing centres. Over 1800 academics have pressured Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnball, to call a summit to consider ways Australia can help these asylum seekers and put an end to the ordeal endured in the facilities.


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