February 06, 2013
New Immigration Minister Brendan O’Connor says he will visit the Nauru detention centre to personally investigate claims of self-harm and rape.
An Australian nurse who worked in the centre last year says she saw several people attempt suicide and heard stories of gang rapes at the centre.
Mr O’Connor says the accounts are disturbing.
He says the Government will work with the United Nations, Nauru and Papua New Guinea to prevent such things happening.
“I will be visiting both Manus [Island] processing centre and Nauru as soon as I possibly can so I can actually be properly briefed and see for myself exactly the situation in those centres.”
Marianne Evers, a trained counsellor and a nurse with more than 40 years experience, signed up for a six-week stint at Nauru last November but quit after three weeks.
Around the time she resigned, two mental health workers also quit.
Ms Evers has worked at the Curtin, Yongah Hill and Darwin detention centres and says they are all difficult places to work.
But she says Nauru is by far the worst.
I actually liken it to a concentration camp, but the Australians don’t have the guts to kill these people and put them out of their misery.Marianne Evers
“I actually liken it to a concentration camp, but the Australians don’t have the guts to kill these people and put them out of their misery,” she said.
“There is absolutely nothing to do. There are no trees. There is no grass. There is not even that many birds there. So we live in that heat without air conditioning in tents.
“It is just desperation that I can’t get out of my head. Of all of them. I have seen people crawling on the floor like animals [saying] please let me die. These pictures don’t leave you.”
There are around 400 single men in the detention centre, around half of them Sri Lankan.
The veteran nurse says she witnessed and dealt with cases of self-harm and attempted suicide.
“I saw people hang themselves. I think in the three weeks I was there, there were three or four hangings that I witnessed and I don’t think that has stopped since. These people are desperate,” she said.
Ms Evers says medical staff told her there were other disturbing incidents at the centre, such as gang rapes.
“I have never actually witnessed that but there have been rapes, as I have heard,” she said.