Leaked files reveal scale of abuse in Nauru detention centre

More than 2,000 leaked reports reveal assaults, sexual abuse, self-harm attempts, child abuse and poor living conditions endured by refugees at Australia’s offshore detention centre on Nauru island.

Photo by: AA (Archive)
Photo by: AA (Archive)

Thousands of Australian protesters calling for the closure of refugee centres on Nauru and Manus

More than 2,000 incident reports leaked from Australia’s detention centre on the Pacific island of Nauru revealed the abuse and trauma inflicted on children and women at the camp.

The ‘Nauru files’ totalling more than 8,000 pages were published by The Guardian on Wednesday.

The files were written by security guards, caseworkers and teachers at the detention centre, covering the period between May 2013 and October 2015.

A total of 1,086 recorded incidents involve children, who make up less than 20 percent of the roughly 500 refugees held in 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 there other reports of sexual advances by unknown men.

In September 2014, a teacher reported that a refugee asked for a four-minute-long shower instead of a two-minute-long shower, saying that her request had been accepted "on condition of sexual favours."

"It is a male security person. She did not state if this has or hasn't occurred. The security officer wants to view a boy or girl having a shower,” the teacher said.

The reports also show there were 30 incidents of self-harm among children and 159 minors threatened self-harm. 

In October 2014, an employee wrote about a refugee who wanted to organise a mass suicide. “She stated that at last count there are at least 30 people who are willing to take part,” the employee wrote. 

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'."

File picture shows Pacific island of Nauru. (Reuters)

Nauru is the smallest island state in the world. The Australia’s detention centre on Nauru was established in 2001 in return for a monetary aid to the island. According to the last official count at the end of June, 442 people including 49 children were held in the camp.

International human rights organisations have regularly criticised Australia’s migration policy, which requires asylum seekers intercepted at sea to be sent to Nauru or another detention centre on Manus island.

They have also criticised the conditions in these camps.

In an immediate response to the files, the Australian government announced that it is seeking to confirm all reports.

A spokeswoman for Department of Immigration said "It's important to note many of these incident reports reflect unconfirmed allegations."

"They are evidence of the robustness of reporting procedures under which any alleged incident must be recorded, reported and where necessary investigated."

The findings came only days after a report released by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said refugees in Nauru “suffer severe abuse, inhumane treatment, and neglect.” But, Australia denied the accusations.

People alarmed by the files took to social media to share their feelings.

Refugee advocates said the 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.

In a statement released online, the UN refugee agency UNHCR called for an immediate solution.

“Although UNHCR is not able to verify the individual incidents raised by the reports, the documents released are broadly consistent with UNHCR’s longstanding and continuing concerns regarding mental health, as well as overall conditions for refugees and asylum-seekers on Nauru,” the statement said.

“UNHCR has observed and reported a progressive deterioration of the situation of refugees and asylum-seekers on Nauru through its regular visits since 2012,” it continued.

“Solutions are now urgently needed.”

Some of the authors of published incident reports, who were former Save the Children workers from the camp, also spoke out, calling for the closure of the Nauru Regional Processing Centre.

TRTWorld and agencies