A group of child asylum seekers inside Nauru's detention centre have appeared in an emotional video pleading for their release and threatening self-harm, amid claims they are bullied and hit by school teachers on the tiny Pacific island.
Advocacy group OPC Voice -- for Offshore Processing Centre -- released YouTube footage of children from the island's detention unit protesting their conditions and making the disturbing claim: "We have to kill ourselves to go to Australia."
Several children also claim they are struck by teachers in the classroom and badly bullied by local Nauruan children in the playground.
On Monday, OPC Voice posted two videos recently uploaded to YouTube. The first shows a group of around 30 young children, claiming to be shot inside the Nauru camp. The video captures vehicles whizzing past the fence on a narrow road, with greenery and a beach just out of reach.
A still from the video (faces blurred)
The children take turns sharing their experiences on Nauru. Refugee children on Nauru attend school in the mainstream Nauru community, and in the video claim mistreatment and bullying by native Nauruan children in the schools they share. The children also beg to come to Australia, several children breaking down in tears as they speak, saying:
- "[Nauruan] children from the school are so bad. They tell us bad words and when you want to go to the playground, they will hit us. Nauru is so dirty and so small."
- "We want to go Australia. Please let us."
- "I just want to go Australia. All the children here... just push us, they don't let us play. They push us. The teachers hit us with the rulers."
- "We're no different. We are people like them too."
- "In assembly they hit us, they bully us. It is not fair."
- "We have to kill ourselves to go [to Australia]."
The video was uploaded to Youtube in recent days, but The Huffington Post Australia understands it may have been originally recorded as early as April 2015. The video's re-publication comes after recent claims a school teacher sexually harassed asylum seeker children on the island.
OPC Voice's website was created on January 9, according to a Whois domain information search. The site has only uploaded small amounts of information, but OPC Voice's Twitter account has said "We will send our news and our voice to the world via this web site." A tweet retweeted by the account claims OPC Voice is managed by refugees inside the Nauru centre.
The second video claims to be shot inside the "Australian detention center in Nauru" in 2014. Dirty, partially-finished shells of buildings -- some with plastic sheets as protection against the elements -- appear to house people, judging from a pair of shoes seen outside one of the plastic "doors."
The video then moves outside, to a courtyard with bare rock and gravel. Detainees wash in outdoor sinks exposed to the beating sun.
It is unclear how, by whom or exactly when the videos were shot.
A spokesman for the Department of Immigration and Border Protection sent only a brief statement in response to a request by HuffPost Australia. In its entirety, the statement read:
"There have been significant upgrades to the facilities at the Regional Processing Centre since 2014. From October 2015 the Nauru Regional Processing Centre became a 24/7 Open Centre where individuals may come and go from their accommodation as they choose."
The videos' release comes as several recent media reports point to the stresses detained refugees endure in immigration detention. The Guardian on Monday reported the government's own detention centre healthcare provider has warned children suffer more serious mental health crises than adults in the centres, while Fairfax Media detailed recent self-harm incidents in immigration detention.
On Monday, the Daily Telegraph also reported 72 more children would be moved from Australian on-shore detention facilities to Nauru in coming weeks.
Save The Children CEO Paul Ronalds, whose group had members controversially deported from Nauru in October after being accused of encouraging asylum seekers to protest, called for the immediate release of all children from detention on Nauru.
"The situation for children, who have less understanding and less control over the situation than their parents, is even more frightening. The sorts of things that we saw with increasing frequency was ongoing bed wetting, inability to sleep, loss of appetite, refusal to engage with parents and other adults, then that deteriorates into violent behaviour," he told The Huffington Post Australia.
"That's a pattern you see. We’re calling for the immediate removal of children from Nauru... the recent reports on increasing rates of self-harm are not surprising to us. The longer you hold people in detention and with no hope for the future, the worse their mental health becomes."
"Our fear is things will get worse and worse. The longer they are deprived of hope, the higher rates we will see of self-harm. We haven't seen the end of this."
The video of the children is reminiscent of a video made by advocacy group Kidz4Kidz in August 2015, where Australian children read messages allegedly written by children on Nauru.
It also calls to mind the release of heartbreaking pictures and letters from children on Nauru as part of the Australian Human Rights Commission's 'Forgotten Children' report in 2015.