Yesterday a video (see above) was released of refugee children, detained on the island of Nauru by the Australian Government, pleading for help. A letter (see below) to Malcolm Turnbull, the Australian prime minister, requesting that he talk with the New Zealand Government about granting the detainees refugee status, has also been published. At the same time over 900 academics in Australia have signed a letter to Turnbull, demanding that the Australian Government end the detention of all children in Australia and in offshore facilities.
Many of the children on the island state have been detained there for more than two years.
One of the signatories, Professor David Issacs, decribed horrific conditions faced by the children in detention on Nauru. He said he saw a six-year-old with rope burns on her neck after she had tried to hang herself with a tie. A 15-year-old boy sewed his lips together with a safety pin. He also saw multiple cases of self harm.
A few days ago we reported how the Australian Government colluded in the false accusations made against Save the Children Australia employees who, it had been claimed, had encouraged asylum-seekers on Nauru to exaggerate their experiences of abuse.
Two weeks ago we reported on the rape of a six year old refugee child on the island; other reports, from a former teacher, described how refugee children are bullied by Naurean children and teachers, to the extent that they no longer feel safe attending school.
In the video released this week the refugee children beg to come to Australia, with several of the 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 ends with a girl saying: “Do you hear our voice? Australian government use us for hostages for stopping the boats. We are children, not policy matters. You can’t use us for stopping the boats. Are we not children? What’s the difference between us and the children [in] Australia? Are we different? Are they beautifuler [sic]? Are we ugly?”
Last Monday The Guardian reported that the Australian government’s own detention centre healthcare provider had warned how children suffer more serious mental health crises than adults in the detention centres.
Save The Children Australia CEO Paul Ronald has stated: “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.”
Meanwhile, the Australian Government plans to send a further 72 children to Nauru as part of its controversial asylum seeker policy.