Camp staff accused of rape, assault

Guards at an Australian immigration processing centre on the Pacific island of Nauru may have traded marijuana for sex with asylum- seekers, an inquiry found yesterday.

The review said it was aware of three allegations of rape, including one against a minor, as well as others of "indecent assault, sexual harassment and physical assault occurring in the centre".

Canberra ordered the inquiry last year following allegations of sexual and physical assault at the Nauru camp, and claims that aid workers coached detainees to self-harm so they could be evacuated to Australia, AFP reported.

The review, conducted by former integrity commissioner Philip Moss, found there was "no conclusive information" suggesting that Save the Children or other staff were assisting in the fabrication of abused claims or coached detainees to self-harm.


But the 86-page report found that many detainees were anxious about their personal safety and there had been an under-reporting of assaults among asylum-seekers.

"This under-reporting is generally for family or cultural reasons," it said, but added that "transferees were concerned that making a complaint could result in a negative impact on the resolution of their asylum claims".

In some cases, asylum-seekers told investigators they had kept mum because they had lost confidence that anything would be done about their complaints.

Australian senator Sarah Hanson-Young said the picture of abuse inside the centre remained "very murky and very unclear" but noted some security staff had been fired as a result of the inquiry.

Amnesty International, which has called for an end to offshore detention of asylum-seekers, said: "The extent of reported sexual abuse and inappropriate behaviour by staff against asylum-seekers is shocking and suggests that existing protections are ineffective or virtually non-existent."

Australia has been under pressure over its hardline asylum-seeker policies under which those arriving on people-smuggling boats are transferred to centres on Nauru and Papua New Guinea.

The latest review noted that the "high density accommodation in mostly un-air-conditioned, soft-walled marquees in a tropical climate" had led to complaints about privacy.

The government said it had accepted the 19 recommendations from the report, including better training for staff and greater engagement between the centre and the Nauruan police force.

"I find the thought of anybody, in particular children, being sexually assaulted completely abhorrent," Australia's immigration minister Peter Dutton said.

This article was first published on Mar 21, 2015.
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