Inquiry Finds Nauru Detention Centre “Insupportable”

Concluding a 5 month Inquiry, the Australian Senate tabled its report on the immigration detention centre in the small pacific state of Nauru.

The 227 page report from the Senate Committee states that the Nauru detention centre is “insupportable” in its current form, stating that the centre is not “adequate, appropriate or safe.”

It also concludes that “Nauru is neither a safe nor an appropriate environment for children and that they should no longer be held there,”  calling for all children and their families to urgently be released from Nauru.

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The Senate Inquiry came about after the independent Moss Review released by the Australian Immigration Department earlier this year, which confirmed reports of sexual abuse in the Australian-run detention centre in Nauru. It also followed on from the 2014 report by the Australian Human Rights Commission, The Forgotten Children, into children in Australian immigration detention.

The report reveals a litany of allegations of abuse towards detainees in the detention centre, including rape and sexual assault of asylum seekers and refugees; repeated child abuses, and the exchange by guards of contraband for sexual favours. Allegations of sexual violence on the island continued throughout the course of the Inquiry: “there is a war on women” Martin McKenzie-Murray has reported.

The report also drew significant attention to the issue of transparancy and accountability for the centre, as well as for refugees currently living in the Nauruan community. “The culture of secrecy which surrounds offshore processing only serves to increase the risk of wrongdoing and abuse and contribute to fear among asylum seekers that no-one will protect them, and that misconduct by staff will go unpunished,” the report said.nauru inquiry infographic complete

An infographic produced by the Australian Coalition to End Child Detention

The lack of accountability to the Australian Government of the companies Transfield Services and Wilson Security, primarily responsible for operations at the centre, was made evident, in the context of the $1.2 billion investment over the past 20 months in these companies. The report makes clear that the centre is the responsibility of the Australian Government, not Nauru’s.

More than 630 people are currently held on Nauru, including 86 children. They are housed under the government’s policy of refusing asylum-seekers arriving by boat resettlement in Australia and instead sending them to facilities on Nauru and Papua New Guinea.

The evidence is clear: indefinite, immigration detention of asylum seekers trying to reach Australia by boat is not an effective deterrent, and the culture of impunity that has thrived within Australia’s detention system, continues to compound the trauma already experienced by asylum seekers and refugees fleeing persecution.

There are alternatives to detention. Alternatives that recognise that rights of asylum seekers and refugees to seek protection, and to live their lives freely and with dignity.