POLITICS

Nauru An 'Open Air Prison', Amnesty Says In Damning Detention Report

Australian offshore detention an 'e​​laborate and cruel system of abuse' and 'intentionally designed to harm people'.

17/10/2016 8:39 PM AEDT | Updated 17/10/2016 11:56 PM AEDT
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CANBERRA -- Amnesty International has accused the Australian Government of subjecting refugees and asylum seekers being held on the Pacific island nation of Nauru to torture, claiming the policy is "an elaborate and cruel system of abuse".

A new report by Amnesty, which includes interviews with more than 100 people including former and current detainees, has described the Australian-run detention and processing centre on the island as an "open air prison designed to inflict as much suffering as necessary."

The report -- 'Island of Despair': Australia's "processing" of refugees on Nauru -- outlines more allegations of abuse in what Amnesty says is a "system of deliberate cruelty." It adds to a similar report from Amnesty, released in August, which alleged the Australian government knew about many claims of abuse but turned a blind eye.

"The distressing and heartbreaking accounts of deteriorating mental health, discrimination and violent attacks, sexual violence, inadequate medical care and harassment that I heard from mothers, fathers, adults and children as young as six, paint a picture of people driven to absolute despair," said Anna Neistat, Amnesty International's Senior Director for Research.

"What we are seeing is the Australian Government going to extraordinary lengths to hide the daily despair of the people on Nauru. In doing so, they have misled the Australian public and the world by failing to admit that their border control policy depends on the deliberate and systematic abuse of thousands of people. Abuse is never a solution."

Amnesty claimed that "the conditions​​ to which refugees and asylum seekers on Nauru are subjected amounts to torture". Interviews with refugees, and footage of the mistreatment of refugees and the conditions on the island, were shown in a special report on Four Corners on Monday -- see the full program here.

The Department of Immigration has hit back at the report, saying that it "repeats claims that have been refuted by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, and its service providers, on numerous occasions".

The Department's statement suggests the report is based on "unsubstantiated claims made by individuals or advocacy groups" and criticises Amnesty International for failing to approach the Department as part of their investigation.

"Australia continues to support the Government of Nauru to ensure people are treated humanely and have access to health, education and welfare services," the statement reads.

Amnesty has called for Australia to boost its aid program to neighbouring countries to protect and support refugees; to work with New Zealand, Japan, the USA, Canada and other countries to resettle refugees and for Australia itself to take in at least 30,000 per year; to commit to a defined period for assessment of refugee applications; and scrapping the policy of boat turn backs.

The latest statistics from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection state that 410 people were in immigration detention on Nauru as of August 31. The ABC reported 750 people have been approved as refugees and live in the Nauruan community.

Both the Turnbull Government and the Labor Opposition support off-shore immigration processing, although Labor has been critical of the Coalition's secrecy and recent reports of abuse, including sexual assaults, within the centre.

Earlier this year, The Guardian published thousands of leaked documents that have become known as the Nauru Fules, which detailed allegations of abuse between 2013 and 2015.

The Nauruan Government hit back at the allegations, alleging most claims are fabricated.

Read the Amnesty report here.

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