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Leaks detail abuse claims at Nauru detention center

August 10, 2016

Australia has housed asylum seekers arriving by boat for years in offshore detention centers. But damning leaks detail widespread abuse at the centers in Nauru.

Nauru Flüchtlinge Archivbild
Image: picture-alliance/dpa

More than 2,000 serious incidents over more than two years, including sexual abuse, assault and attempted self-harm, were reported in about two years at an Australian detention center for asylum seekers in Nauru, more than half involving children, a newspaper reported Wednesday.

Leaked documents published by the Guardian Australia detail again the level of abuse at Nauru, one of two run by Australia on neighboring South Pacific island nations and show once more that children bear the brunt of the trauma.

The reports also show there were 30 incidents of self-harm among children and 159 of threatened self-harm involving minors. One of the 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.‘"

Under Australia's asylum policy, refugees intercepted at sea are sent to Nauru and another camp on Manus Island, in Papua New Guinea, and told they will never be settled in Australia.

Rights groups said the leaked 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.

Australia: 'Unconfirmed allegations'

Australia said it was seeking to confirm all reports had been dealt with by Nauru police. "It's important to note many of these incident reports reflect unconfirmed allegations," a spokeswoman for Australia's Department of Immigration said.

As of May 31 there were 847 people in the Manus Island center and 466 people in Nauru, according to government figures.

The closely protected camps, and Australia's hard-line immigration policy against boat arrivals, have been widely criticized by the United Nations and human rights groups.

Even though the number of refugees and asylum seekers trying to reach Australia is tiny compared with Europe, immigration has long been an emotive issue in Australia and hardline immigration polcies enjoy bipartisan political support.

jar/kl (Reuters, dpa)