Australia: Appalling abuse, neglect of refugees on Nauru

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch

Amnesty International (AI) and Human Rights Watch (HRW) report that refugees arriving in Australia are being treated inhumanely and abusively.  According to the report, “around 1,200 men, women, and children who sought refuge in Australia, were forcibly transferred to the remote Pacific island nation of Nauru suffer severe abuse, inhumane treatment, and neglect.”

The report notes that asylum seekers (some of them have been there over three years) face neglect by health workers and service providers.  AI and HRW report that it appears that Australia is intentionally abusing and neglecting refugees in order to prevent other refugees from coming to Australia for asylum.  The report notes by treating refugees this way, Australia has failed to provide an environment that is free of abuse, torture, and other ill-treatment.

The report states that people who were initially sent to Nauru spent more than a year in vinyl tents. The refugees who live on Nauru describe the conditions as “prison-like.” The report further states that refugee housing is supported by an organization hired by the Australian government called Regional Processing Center (RPC).

Refugees are subject to curfews.  They were recently allowed greater freedom to move around the island in 2015.  This sort of treatment is exacerbating the harsh treatment refugees experienced in their home countries.  Refugees report anxiety, depression, and an inability to sleep.

Children who attend local schools, report instances of bullying.  Children also have begun to wet their beds and suffer from nightmares.  Children speak of being suicidal. Access to mental health professionals is limited. Parents often have to wait for months to have their children seen by visiting specialists. Australia provides Nauru patients with heavy amounts of anti-psychotic and depression medication.

Food is distributed at certain times, and no one is allowed to bring food to their tents, even it is for young children.

Australian relies on independent private organizations for services provided.  When AI and HRC approached these organizations, they said it was not their job to engage in Australian policy.