the Nauru prison camp has raised “profound” concern over the inhuman
and degrading treatment of refugee children there, which it says is
having an impact on their physical wellbeing.
About 500 people, including 50 children,
are stuck in a prison on the tiny Pacific Island nation as they seek
asylum in Australia.
The UN Committee on the Rights of the
Children said in its report that the refugees face persistent
discrimination, and are living in cramped, humid and life-threatening
“The Committee is concerned at the lack
of a comprehensive policy to specifically promote and protect the rights
of children,” the report said. “It also notes with concern reports
indicating that the Child Protection Directorate staff lack training or
formal experience in child protection/child welfare.”
The report added that such conditions
could exacerbate mental health issues, and that the agreement between
the governments of Australia and Nauru failed to take into account the
best interests of children.
UN workers are also “seriously
concerned” that NGOs and journalists have been restricted in their
ability to conduct research relating to children’s rights at the prison.
Nauru, the report said, should
prioritise the immediate transfer of children and their families into a
permanent resettlement option.
Al Jazeera’s Andrew Thomas, reporting
from Sydney, said: “In 17 pages of this report, the committee says how
concerned it is 35 times … Will this change anything? There have been
lots of previous reports about abuse on Nauru. Former workers there have told Al Jazeera how bad conditions there are, but Australia’s government dismisses those claims.”
Government officials say allegations are not evidence and that its policies are useful in controlling immigration, added Thomas.
The governments of Nauru and Australia did not respond to a request for comment from Al Jazeera by the time of publication.
“The real solution [to the refugee
crisis] is to return refugees to whence they came,” said Jim Saleam,
president of the far-right Australia First Party. “The claims of
persecution that are generally made, we regard as massively
Nauru is a tiny 29sq kilometre island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
Nauru’s prison camp first opened in
2001, under a policy brought in by Australia’s conservative Liberal
Party – the so-called Pacific Solution.
Source: Al Jazeera News SOURCE
UN committee also criticises
restrictions imposed on international NGOs and journalists from looking
into children’s rights and protection on the island
Nauruan government must take “immediate action” to investigate all
allegations of mistreatment, abuse and sexual assault against refugee
and asylum-seeker children, the United Nations has said in a report card on the Pacific island nation.
which reviewed the state of children’s rights in Nauru. Many of its
findings, or concluding observations, relate to the refugee and
asylum-seeker children held or hosted on the island as part of its
agreement with Australia to process boat arrivals.
committee concluded that the Nauruan government had accepted
asylum-seeking and refugee children from Australia “without taking their
best interests into account”.
UN committee also criticised the restrictions on civil society groups
and media, and expressed concern that some international organisations
had faced intimidation.
findings were dismissed by the Australian and Nauruan governments as
being allegations and historical, despite the reports containing
first-hand accounts from employees, up until October 2015.
Friday, the UN committee called on the Nauruan government to “take
immediate action to independently investigate all allegations of
ill-treatment, abuse and sexual assault” against asylum seeking and
refugee children, and Nauruan children.
develop a child protection system, but expressed concern at the limited
capacity of the police force to investigate allegations of sexual
assault and violence against children.
committee was also concerned about the “inhuman and degrading
treatment, including physical, psychological and sexual abuse, against
asylum seeking and refugee children living in the Regional Processing
Centres”, and reports of intimidation and violence against people living
in the community.
criticised the lack of assistance for the recovery of children who
“experienced trauma prior to their arrival in Nauru and the subsequent
impact of prolonged periods of living in detention-like conditions,
which has resulted in many cases of attempted suicide, self-immolation,
acts of self-harm and depression”.
called for compulsory training and mandatory reporting requirements for
all professionals working with children, and immediate protection,
prevention and rehabilitation measures. Separately, it urged the
creation of a national database of domestic violence against children,
and thorough assessment of the extent, causes, and nature of the
violence in order to develop effective prevention and protection
noted that despite recent law reform, corporal punishment continued to
be widely socially accepted, and was still used in detention-like
settings such as the regional processing centre.
committee expressed serious concern that international organisations
and journalists had been restricted from conducting research relating to
children’s rights, and that there had been reports of international
organisations being subjected to intimidation. It recommended that the
Nauruan government involve civil society groups in policy, and build “an
environment of trust and cooperation” with NGOs and journalists.
are now charged a US$8,000 (A$10,500) non-refundable visa application
fee, and only two Australian journalists have since been granted access.
In September, it refused to allow some members of a Danish political delegation,
including members of parliament, who had hoped to visit the processing
centre as part of a fact-finding mission on Australia’s immigration
month, the Nauruan president, Baron Waqa, told the United Nations
summit on refugees and migrants that the processing system gave people
protection while also undermining the business model of people
said that while “implementation of this model is not without its
issues”, it had a robust and fair determination system, and complied
with UNHCR guidance.
UN committee welcomed the recent ratification by Nauru of the Optional
Protocol of the Convention against Torture, the Convention against
Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment,
the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and the
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against
Women, as well as key pieces of law reform and policy.
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