September 30, 2014
Labor and the Greens are demanding an investigation into claims of sexual abuse against women and children inside the Nauru detention centre.
Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young said women inside the centre were regularly required to strip and exchange sexual favours with guards so they could have access to the showers.
She said there were also allegations children had been forced to have sex in front of guards at the centre.
“The culture inside the Nauru detention camp is toxic,” she said.
“It’s dangerous for children and coupled with all of that, we’ve seen over the last few days – young people and children – now not only witnessing self-harm and suicide attempts, but participating in that themselves.”
Senator Hanson-Young said asylum seekers had raised the allegations with case workers inside the centre, while she had raised the issues directly with Immigration Minister Scott Morrison last weekand was waiting for a response.
Labor frontbencher and former immigration minister Chris Bowen said the Government needed to take action.
“Any report like that is concerning,” he said.
“And the appropriate thing when you have … allegations like that is a proper and thorough investigation and full transparency from the government.”
Showers in the detention camp are regulated because of the island’s uncertain water supply.
The Government said the allegations had been referred to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.
Cambodia relocation to go ahead despite protests
Refugees living on Nauru have vowed to continue to protest against the Australian Government’s $40 million resettlement deal with Cambodia.
Yesterday a group of refugees who have already been resettled on Nauru held a protest march, describing the Cambodia deal as cruel and unfair.
In pictures provided to the ABC demonstrators could be seen holding a sign which read “Only our corpse [sic] might go to Cambodia.”
A young girl held another sign which said “Suicide is sweeter than Australia’s dirty policy.”
A protest was also held on Friday by former detainees of the offshore processing centre on the island.
The group from the Monday protest presented a letter to the Australian High Commission on Nauru, urging Australia to reconsider the Cambodian deal, which was signed by Mr Morrison in Phnom Penh at the end of last week.
“Australian Government has driven this [sic] people to the point that they feel like they have reached the end,” the letter signed by ‘Nauru refugees’ said.
It continued, “They feel like they have nothing to lose. They want the Australian governments to know that they can send us to Cambodia but only our dead bodies.”
Under the resettlement deal, people who were recognised refugees and agreed to be settled in Cambodia would be given Khmer language training on Nauru before being relocated to the South East Asian country.
Iranian man Rahman, who was involved in the protest and only wanted his first name published, said people were scared at the prospect of being settled in Cambodia.
“People here are so angry and upset at the deal signed with Cambodia, we don’t want to go to Cambodia, he said.
“I think Cambodia is not a safe place, it’s a very poor country. I don’t understand their language, there is lots of crime in Cambodia. I don’t feel safe in Cambodia, I have no future in Cambodia.”
Last week Mr Morrison told the ABC that four or five refugees would be voluntarily settled in Cambodia in the program’s early stages, with more to follow at a later date.
The deal was criticised by human rights groups, with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres describing the move as a “worrying departure from international norms.”
On Saturday the government confirmed that a 15 year-old girl held on Nauru had been medically evacuated to Australia.
Refugee advocates said the girl attempted suicide after learning she could be settled in Cambodia.
There are also unconfirmed reports of unrest inside the detention centre on Nauru last night. A number of sources have told the ABC that the security level in the centre is now at its maximum, and more security staff are being brought onto the island.
A video has also emerged which appears to show a number of asylum seekers who have sewn their lips together in protest at the Cambodia resettlement deal. It is unclear where the video was filmed, but former workers on the island told the ABC that they recognised some of the men in the short video.
A spokesperson for Mr Morrison said in a statement the minister had been informed of the protests.
“The minister has been advised that the department is aware that some transferees are engaging in peaceful protest activity in Nauru, and is working with its service providers to ensure the continued safety and good order of the facility.”
The Cambodian government has said that any refugees sent there by Australia would stay in a temporary camp in Phnom Penh for a year, but would not be allowed to settle in the capital.
It said they would eventually live in the regions, but did not stipulated where.
A Cambodian government delegation is due to travel to Nauru soon to survey the living conditions there and talk to refugees.