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Report: Asylum Seekers Living In Fear & Suffering Abuse In Nauru

Photo: Yongah Hill Immigration Detention Centre Source: Flickr DIBPimages Licensed under

The Senate Inquiry in to Asylum Seekers being held in Nauru has revealed a world of fear,degradation and hopelessness. These terrible conditions in the detention centre has lead to many having cases of mental illness with many contemplating and attempting to take their own lives.

The inquiry has heard that many asylum seekers often discussed how they did not feel safe in their accommodation and feared that they were being watched in their room by others.

It has also been revealed that if there was any incident in the centre asylum seekers stated that they feared giving information via an incident report and would not complain because they could be targeted in some cases. This also included asylum seekers stating that they had personal belongings stolen from their room, because of the stress and fear of not having a safe, secure environment to live in, asylum seekers would find it difficult to engage in activities available.

Many of the young asylum seekers displayed signs of deteriorating mental health. This display manifested in self-harm, suicidal ideation and actual suicide attempts. Methods of self-harm included cutting with razorblades, cutting with sharpened rocks (which were abundant), banging head on walls, attempted hanging with skipping rope, attempted self-electrocution by sticking metal object in light socket, refusal of food and water, and complete withdrawal from friends and others in the camp.

A qualified Social Worker working in the detention centre submitted to the Senate enquiry “with extensive experience in child protection and adolescent mental health, it is abundantly clear to me that the experience of young asylum seekers on Nauru is overwhelmingly traumatic and unnecessary, and in clear breach of several articles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Asylum seekers that have been sent to Nauru have also had to under go a process to determine their age. In some cases the wrong age has been determined which has lead to serve consequences against the asylum seeker involved. One asylum seeker was  incorrectly judged to be over the age of 18, was accommodated in the all adult male camp, where he was particularly vulnerable to exploitation and abuse by older males.

The United Nations Human Rights Commissioner for Refugees has also submitted to the Senate inquiry saying “As a matter of international law, the physical transfer of asylum-seekers from Australia to Nauru does not extinguish Australia’s legal responsibility for the protection of asylum-seekers, refugees or stateless persons affected by the transfer arrangements.”

“Australia has a duty of care to all asylum-seekers, refugees and stateless persons transferred to Nauru, which requires that appropriate legal and procedural safeguards are in place to ensure that each individual is protected from harm.”

Dr Young, who worked as a psychiatrist and was the director of the mental health services which were provided by International Health and Medical Services for the immigration detention network for three years, from mid-2011 to mid-2014, told the committee yesterday “…when people are put in a position where they are dehumanised, where they are called by numbers and they are called ‘illegals’, those types of things have a more powerful effect than simply the physical conditions themselves.”

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