Workers: Australia knew of child sex abuse at immigration camp

In an open letter released Tuesday, the current and former employees said the immigration department had been aware “of the sexual and physical assault of women and children on Nauru for at least 17 months”.

But Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said his predecessor was only made aware of the allegations in late 2014, and had then ordered a review.

The review revealed allegations of sex crimes, including against a minor, and found that assaults had been under-reported and many detainees were anxious about their personal safety. 

Investigations are underway into some of the allegations, and some of the Nauru staff have been sacked.

“The review reported back to the department with 19 recommendations and those recommendations are being acted upon now,” Dutton told Sky News.

“And if there are further allegations then people should make those to the appropriate authorities and they will be investigated.”

The letter is signed by 24 former and current staff including psychiatrists, youth workers and teachers, and calls for all asylum-seekers to be removed from Nauru.

It also wants a Royal Commission – a major formal public inquiry – into the abuse allegations and the government’s response.

Victims who spoke out remain detained
The letter claims that the immigration department was informed, in writing, of allegations via incident reports, as well as by being present at daily and weekly meetings at which assaults were discussed.

It says that when a boy was sexually assaulted by a detention centre employee in November 2013, the then immigration minister was informed. Despite this, the boy was kept in detention, where he was subject to further abuse.

“It is important to highlight that many survivors who did come forward previously, still remain in Nauru subject to further abuse,” the letter stated.

Viktoria Vibhakar, who worked with the charity Save the Children on Nauru, said those who signed the letter felt morally obliged to do so.

She said one girl had wanted to take her own life after being sexually abused, while other small children were demonstrating disturbing sexualised behaviour.

“I believe that all of those children in Nauru need to be removed from detention and brought to Australia where they can be safe,” Vibhakar told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Since 2013 Australia has sent all asylum-seekers arriving by boat into detention on Nauru and Papua New Guinea, and denied them resettlement in Australia despite an outcry from rights groups. – AFP

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories

Empire and environmentalism: The legacy of a brilliant maverick, Richard Grove

The prolific interdisciplinary scholar who worked on the periphery and challenged Eurocentrism also drew attention to the El Niño phenomenon and global warming concerns in Victorian times

Speaking out against D’banj

After accusing the Afrobeats superstar of rape, Seyitan Babatayo was arrested

Invest in children to give them a better world

This entails putting them at the centre of national strategies, but doing it without high CO2 releases

Some black lives matter, others don’t

We condemn the killing of a black Americans, yet women, African foreigners and queer people are regularly abused and killed in SA

Meet refugee camp’s ‘Corona Guy’

One radio presenter is using the airwaves to bring vital facts about the virus to Dadaab’s 217 000 residents

Remembering the cruelty of strongman Nkurunziza and his regime

Burundi’s president was a cruel and tyrannical leader under whom no one was safe, not even schoolchildren

Treasury presents Covid-19 corruption action plan

Reports of corruption, over-pricing and the delivery of sub-standard PPE have become the norm over the past five months as the country grapples with the Covid-19 pandemic

Metro cops, SAPS clash over control

Tensions between the City of Cape Town and the police service over responsibilities mirrors the strain between national and local government

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday