Last Wednesday, the Guardian published the Nauru files – over 2000 reports that documented the devastating trauma and abuse inflicted on children being held by Australia in offshore detention, namely on the remote Pacific island of Nauru. The reports detail numerous violations to rights of the child – assaults, sexual abuse, self-harm, child abuse and poor, rabid living conditions inside the detention camp for asylum seekers. Common themes reveal numerous allegations of sexual assault against young men and women, misconduct by the guards on a daily basis, and multiple incidents of self-harm.
The findings come weeks after the brutality and ill treatment of young people being held in juvenile detention in the Northern Territory was exposed to the public. Some of the writes behind the incident reports spoke to the Canberra Times this week pleading for Australians to listen to their firsthand experiences that exposed a pattern of systematic abuse and neglect of children who sought safety from them.
The reports were met with much backlash by the Australian federal government, media and the general public. Liberal politician and Australian immigration minister, Peter Dutton, has downplayed the abuse and neglect of hundreds of children, claiming that asylum seekers and refugees were purposely making false allegations in order to ‘get to Australia’. While a number of human rights groups have pushed for an investigation into Nauru by the royal commission, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has commented that he believes the documents were based on allegations and not actual findings. However, he said the government would examine the published material to see if any of the complaints had not been properly addressed.
In part, the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection have also released a statement reflecting a similar sentiment: “The Australian government continues to support the Nauruan government to provide for the health, welfare and safety of all transferees and refugees in Nauru. The documents published… are evidence of the rigorous reporting procedures that are in place in the regional processing centre. Many of the incident reports reflect unconfirmed allegations or uncorroborated statements and claims – they are not statements of proven fact.”
However, the Guardian stresses that the documents uncovered encompass the final days of Labor’s time in government and the takeover of the Coalition since September 2013. It is hoped the files prove a wake-up call in addressing not only the failed detention system in Australia, but elsewhere in the world too.