Explosive documents reveal the bad treatment of asylum seekers in Nauru's offshore detention centre

By Natalie Wolfe

WARNING: Graphic content
Nauru is essentially like an open-air prison for these refugees and people seeking asylum, reports have been leaked detailing horrific incidents with refugees. Photo / Kenny Rodger
Nauru is essentially like an open-air prison for these refugees and people seeking asylum, reports have been leaked detailing horrific incidents with refugees. Photo / Kenny Rodger

A girl sewed her mouth shut and was laughed at by the guards on duty.

A young boy was threatened with his life and, on one occasion, a guard requested sexual favours from someone who wanted a four-minute shower instead of two.

These are just some of the examples of harrowing abuse, sexual assault, child abuse and self-harm attempts detailed in an explosive report on the treatment of asylum seekers in Nauru's offshore detention centre.

The Guardian today published a database of more than 2,000 leaked documents detailing disturbing incidents, also including a pregnant woman begging not to have her baby in Nauru as she believed her baby would die in the island hospital.

"If I am made to have my baby on Nauru, I will have my baby in my tent and kill myself and my baby."

She told the case workers if they took away her razor she would beat herself with rocks or throw herself onto a chair to kill her and the baby.

The woman added the only thing that would stop her is if she was taken to Australia to have the baby because she would "not raise another baby on Nauru".

Responding to the leak, Amnesty International's senior director for research Dr Anna Neistat said: "This leak has laid bare a system of routine dysfunction and cruelty that is at once dizzying in its scale and utterly damning for the Australian authorities who tried so hard to maintain a veil of secrecy."

Amnesty International conducted a 12-day investigation in July that detailed the Australian Government's design of a "system of deliberate abuse" to deter potential asylum seekers from even attempting to come to Australia.

"[Nauru] is essentially like an open-air prison for these refugees and people seeking asylum," Dr Neistat added.

"I've conducted over 60 investigations into human rights abuses in countries like Afghanistan, Syria, Zimbabwe and China, but few other countries go to such lengths to deliberately inflict suffering on people searching for safety and freedom.

"I was not expecting this kind of shocking abuse.

"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 and given the medical and psychological support they need.

"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."

The damning report details numerous incidents of self harm, including a man swallowing rocks who had to be restrained from consuming more while another tells of a child attempting to ingest cleaning chemicals. Countless more tell of asylum seekers cutting themselves - one child used a needle and thread to sew a heart into his hand. When asked by a social worker why he did this, he said he didn't know.

Australia's strict border protection policy has come under worldwide scrutiny, including from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mr Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein who has condemned the "hostility and contempt [for asylum seekers] that is so widespread among [Australia's] politicians".

Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Peter Dutton routinely tweets about the Coalition's success with stopping the boats. On July 27, the Turnbull government celebrated the two-year anniversary of no illegal boat arrivals, with Mr Dutton commenting: "The coalition has demonstrated that we are the only party with the ability to stop the boats."

Mr Turnbull today stated: "The material that's been published will be examined. It's not clear over what time period it relates, at least not in the report that I saw.

"It will be carefully examined to see if there are any complaints there or issues there that were not properly addressed."

He added, "The Australian Government provides support to the Government of Nauru and their police force in dealing with complaints of this kind and they have the responsibility for responding to them and dealing with them."

Treasurer Scott Morrison dismissed the reports as "allegations" and not "findings of fact in relation to an incident".

Nauru's detention centre was temporarily closed in 2008 by Kevin Rudd but, after 7000 boat arrivals to the Australian mainland and hundreds of deaths at sea, the offshore centre was reopened in 2012.

Where to get help:

Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
Youth services: (06) 3555 906
Youthline: 0800 376 633
Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
The Word
Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
CASPER Suicide Prevention
Women's Refuge: 0800 733 843
Victim Support: 0800 842 846
Lifeline: (09) 522 2999
Family Violence Info Line: 0800 456 450
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.

- news.com.au

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