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UN Hits Out At Nauru's Treatment Of Asylum Seeker Children

Nauru has been slammed over conditions at detention centres on the island.

08/10/2016 8:23 AM AEDT | Updated 08/10/2016 11:19 AM AEDT
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A new UN report has raised questions about Nauru's treatment of asylum seeker children.

The United Nations has criticised the Nauruan Government's treatment of asylum seeker and refugee children, urging the Pacific nation to improve its performance on a number of fronts.

In its latest report, the UN's Committee on the Rights of the Child found children in Nauru faced big risks as a result of being held in the controversial facilities.

"Asylum seeking and refugee children face significant physical and developmental risks as a result of living in cramped, humid and life-threatening conditions in the Regional Processing Centres," the 17-page report states.

It also highlighted the "inhuman and degrading treatment, including physical, psychological and sexual abuse, against asylum seeking and refugee children living in the Regional Processing Centres".

"The Committee is seriously concerned at the ... Information provided by the State party indicating that some 30 percent of girls have been victims of sexual abuse before the age of 15 (and that) sentences in cases of rape and other sexual assaults well below the maximum sentences provided for in legislation," the report also states.

Another concern outlined in the report, released this week, was increasing restrictions on media access to the tiny island nation.

"The Committee is seriously concerned that international civil society organisations and journalists have been restricted in their ability to conduct research relating to children's rights, particularly in relation to the processing of child asylum seekers and refugees at the Regional Processing Centres," the report adds.

"It is further concerned at reports indicating that some international organisations have been subjected to intimidation, and that non-refundable visa application fees for visiting journalists have been increased from USD200 to USD8000."

Australian federal politicians Andrew Wilkie and Sarah Hanson-Young have had visa applications knocked back by Nauru this year, and there is little transparency about conditions on the island.

Last month, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton doubled down on Australia's relationship with Nauru, saying that processing asylum seekers would "continue for decades" there, despite activist opposition.

The full UN report can be read online here.

Its release comes two months after an Amnesty and Human Rights Watch report claimed Australia had a "deliberate policy" of not addressing issues on Nauru and that asylum seekers on the island were suffering from inadequate medical care.

The Amnesty and Human Rights Watch report was authored after staff from the NGOs spent 12 days on the island in July, interviewing 84 refugees and asylum seekers.

It alleged that refugees and asylum seekers on Nauru were routinely unable to access basic medical care, were often beaten and abused by Nauruan locals and that nearly all asylum seekers interviewed had mental health problems.

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