SYDNEY, 2 August, 2016 (Human Rights Watch): About 1,200 men, women, and children who sought refuge in Australia and were forcibly transferred to the remote Pacific island nation of Nauru suffer severe abuse, inhumane treatment, and neglect, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International said today.
The Australian government’s failure to address serious abuses appears to be a deliberate policy to deter further asylum seekers from arriving in the country by boat.
Refugees and asylum seekers on Nauru, most of whom have been held there for three years, routinely face neglect by health workers and other service providers who have been hired by the Australian government, as well as frequent unpunished assaults by local Nauruans.
They endure unnecessary delays and at times denial of medical care, even for life-threatening conditions.
Many have dire mental health problems and suffer overwhelming despair – self-harm and suicide attempts are frequent. All face prolonged uncertainty about their future.
“Australia’s policy of exiling asylum seekers who arrive by boat is cruel in the extreme,” said Anna Neistat, senior director for research at Amnesty International, who conducted the investigation on the island for the organization.
“Few other countries go to such lengths to deliberately inflict suffering on people seeking safety and freedom.”
Australian authorities are well aware of the abuses on Nauru. The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), a Senate Select Committee, and a government-appointed independent expert have each highlighted many of these practices, and called on the government to change them.
The Australian government’s persistent failure to address abuses committed under its authority on Nauru strongly suggests that they are adopted or condoned as a matter of policy.
By forcibly transferring refugees and people seeking asylum to Nauru, detaining them for prolonged periods in inhuman conditions, denying them appropriate medical care, and in other ways structuring its operations so that many experience a serious degradation of their mental health, the Australian government has violated the rights to be free from torture and other ill-treatment, and from arbitrary detention, as well as other fundamental protections, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International said.