‘We Are Dead Souls In Living Bodies’: Australia Accused Of Abusing Refugees

By Ben Westcott

Australia is deliberately abusing refugees in an offshore detention camp to try to stop people seeking asylum in their country by boat, human rights groups claim in a new report.

Daily violence, suicide attempts and children left without medical treatment were among some of the allegations documented by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch during a visit to Australia’s detention center on the remote Pacific Island of Nauru in July.
Human Rights Watch Children’s Rights Division senior counsel Michael Bochenek was one of two researchers who visited the island with a legal visa, but without notifying authorities directly of his intent or who he worked for.
“In my experience there is no other developed country that I can think of who has pursued this course of conduct with people who are fleeing persecution, who are seeking freedom, who are accused of no crime,” Bochenek told CNN.
“There is no parallel for this.”
The rights groups said the Australian government was well aware of the issues on Nauru and appeared to be using them to deter other potential asylum seekers.
However, Australian officials said they had not been contacted about the allegations and strongly denied “many” of them.
“We would strongly encourage Amnesty International to contact the Department before airing allegations of this kind.
The Department strongly refutes many of the allegations in the report,” said an Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection spokesman. He didn’t specify which ones.
In their interviews with refugees kept indefinitely on the island, released in a report on Wednesday, Amnesty and Human Rights Watch documented tales of fear, anger and despair.
“People here don’t have a real life. We are just surviving. We are dead souls in living bodies,” one woman told researchers. “We are just husks. We don’t have any hope or motivation.”
During his visit to the island, Bochenek said refugees told him they experienced regular harassment from locals, poor medical treatment and often discussed killing themselves, including children as young as 10.
“What’s going through the mind of a 10-year-old who is thinking about killing herself?” Bochenek said.
More than 20 refugees interviewed by the researchers said they had been robbed or assaulted by Nauruans, including one man who was hit on the head with a machete.
One woman who has chronic illness which caused her to develop lumps in her breasts, throat and uterus said she could never complete treatment at a offshore hospital before she was forced back to Nauru.
“When I was in Australia, my doctor told immigration that I needed surgery for my breasts, but they still sent me back.
My problems deteriorated… they gave me some pills, but they are not working, and I am in constant pain and cannot eat anything,” a woman told the not-for-profit workers.
Researchers were told children in Nauru suffered from serious mental health problems such as bed wetting or even completing stopping communication, while most faced regular bullying at school.
Some young asylum seekers told Amnesty International and Humans Rights Watch that they had stopped going to school as a result.
Source: cnn.com

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