“Who’s got the moral responsibility?” The Australian Senate’s Inquiry into allegations of abuses in the detention centre in Nauru continued in July, with the Senate Select Committee holding its third and final public hearing. The Inquiry came about after the independent Moss Review report was released by the Australian Immigration Department earlier this year, which confirmed reports of sexual abuse in the Australian-run detention centre in Nauru, including rape; guards trading marijuana for sexual favours; and sexual assault on children.
The evidence that has been received during the Inquiry has been deeply disturbing. Submissions made to the Inquiry detail inadequate, unsanitary living conditions at the detention centre, with moldy tents causing fungal eye and skin conditions. Female detainees have been denied easy access to sanitary pads for “security reasons”. Child detainees have been “directly exposed” to detainees who had stapled their lips together, attempted suicide by hanging and women who had attempted to terminate pregnancies through starvation.
Details also emerged at the Senate Inquiry’s most recent hearing that despite 30 allegations of sexual abuse by staff against children at the detention facility, not a single employee of the contracted service providers at the centre have been charged.
Despite the mounting evidence of abuse against detainees made clear by the Senate Inquiry, the Australian Government has continued to transfer children and their families from mainland Australian detention centres to be processed offshore in Nauru. It was reported during July that up to 40 asylum seekers were removed from Darwin’s Wickham Point Detention Centre by force, in the middle of the night, to be transferred to Nauru.
Additional concern for the wellbeing of detainees in Australian-run detention centres has been raised this month by The Guardian Australia’s investigation into International Health and Medical Services (IHMS), the contracted provider of healthcare to all Australia’s detained asylum seekers. It is clear that the detention centre in Nauru is not a safe place for detainees, particularly women and children.
As stipulated in the IDC Core Position, conditions of detention must comply with basic minimum human rights standards. There must be regular independent monitoring of places of detention to ensure these standards are met. States should ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, which provides a strong legal basis for a regular and independent monitoring of places of detention.