Calls For Sex Abuse Royal Commission To Investigate Nauru

Australia's response to abuse on Nauru could be examined.

12/08/2016 11:36 AM AEST | Updated 12/08/2016 11:38 AM AEST
Peter Dutton says some asylum seekers are lying about abuse suffered in immigration detention on Nauru.

There are renewed calls for the Sex Abuse Royal Commission to turn the spotlight on the Australian-funded Nauru detention centre, amid further allegations of abuse of asylum seekers and refugees on the tiny Pacific island.

Legal advice released by three non-government organisations argues the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has the power to examine the response of the Australian Government and its contractors to child sexual abuse on Nauru.

The legal advice essentially argues that while the Royal Commission wouldn't have coercive powers in Nauru, it could investigate the response of the Australian government and contractors to allegations of abuse.

I think that a royal commission could investigate... matters for which Australia is internationally responsible

The move was prompted by the leak of more than 2000 incident reports, written by staff at the Nauru centre, to The Guardian Australia. Some of the reports contained allegations of sex abuse against children.

"We've taken the step to make this advice public on the back of the widespread evidence of ongoing harm to innocent people, including children, that was revealed this week through the leaked files," the Human Rights Law Centre's Hugh de Kretser told the ABC.

"The over 2,000 incident reports showing ongoing child abuse, ongoing sexual abuse, ongoing harm self-harm suicide, assaults and injuries."

The Huffington Post Australia has sought comment from the Royal Commission.

The incident reports cover a period between August 2013 and October 2015.

The NGOs -- Australian Council for International Development (ACFID), the Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) and the Human Rights Law Centre (HRLC) -- first sent the advice to the Royal Commissioner Peter McClellan in July last year.

President of the Human Rights Commission, Gillian Triggs, backed calls for the Commission to be extended.

"I think that a royal commission could investigate, in my view, matters for which Australia is internationally responsible, and where we we have managed and paid for the entire process," she told Radio National.

"It is not good enough to say that this is for another sovereign nation."

"Some people have even gone to the extent of self-harming and people have self-immolated in an effort to get to Australia. Certainly some have made false allegations."

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said Thursday it was an issue for Nauru.

"I have been made aware of some incidents that have reported false allegations of sexual assault, because in the end, people have paid money to people smugglers and they want to come to our country," he told Radio Station 2GB.

"Some people have even gone to the extent of self-harming and people have self-immolated in an effort to get to Australia. Certainly some have made false allegations."

Australia pays $1.2 billion a year to run detention centres in Nauru and on Papua New Guinea's Manus Island.

'I want death, I need death.'

In all there were seven reports of sexual assaults, 59 reports of assaults on children, 30 incidents of self-harm among children and 159 of threatened self-harm involving minors.

One of the leaked incident reports said a child had "written in her book that she was tired, doesn't like the camp and wants to die ... 'I want death, I need death'."

Refugee advocates say the reports show the urgent need to end Australia's offshore detention policy.

"It is clear from these documents, and our own research, that many have been driven to the brink of physical or mental breakdown by their treatment on Nauru," said Anna Neistat, senior director for research at Amnesty International.

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