Some 2,000 incidents, including sexual abuse, assault, and attempted self-harm, were reported in two years at a detention centre for asylum seekers in Nauru, Australia. Half involved children, a local newspaper has reported.
Leaked documents published by the Guardian Australia detail again the abuse at the centre on tiny Nauru, one of two run by Australia on neighbouring South Pacific islands.
Children bear the brunt of the trauma.
The closely protected camps, and Australia’s hard-line immigration policy against illegal boat arrivals, have been widely criticised by the United Nations and human rights groups.
Asylum seekers intercepted at sea are sent to Nauru and to another camp on Manus Island, in Papua New Guinea, and told they will never be settled in Australia.
The number of refugees and asylum seekers trying to reach Australia is tiny compared with Europe.
However, immigration has long been an emotive issue in Australia and the hardline policy has bipartisan political support.
Let's shut Nauru & Manus down— Kon Karapanagiotidis (@Kon__K) August 10, 2016
Australia said it was seeking to confirm that all reports had been dealt with by Nauru police.
“It’s important to note many of these incident reports reflect unconfirmed allegations,” a spokeswoman for Australia’s Department of Immigration said.
The more than 2,000 leaked incident reports published by the Guardian cover the period between August 2013 and October 2015.
Children account for less than 20% of the 500 detainees held on Nauru. There were 59 reports of assaults on children, and seven reports of sexual assaults.
Some of the reports alleged abuse by guards against children, while others were of sexual advances by unknown men.
There were 30 incidents of self-harm among children and 159 of threatened self-harm.
The remaining reports involving children cover a variety of issues, ranging from accidents to misbehaviour.
One of the leaked incident reports said a child had “written in her book that she was tired, doesn’t like the camp and wants to die ... ‘I want death, I need death’.”
Refugee advocates said the leaked reports show the urgent need to end Australia’s offshore detention policy and that asylum seekers must be given medical and psychological support.
“It is clear, from these documents, and our own research, that many have been driven to the brink of physical or mental breakdown by their treatment on Nauru,” said Anna Neistat, senior director for research at Amnesty International.
“Australia’s offshore processing of refugees must end, and all of the refugees and asylum-seekers on Nauru and Manus Island must be resettled immediately.”
UNICEF Australia also renewed calls for a permanent resettlement solution, saying there was “undeniable, cumulative evidence” suggesting that transferred children were not safe on Nauru.
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