Guards may have traded dope for sex at Australia’s Nauru camp

SYDNEY - 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 Friday.

The review said it was aware of two allegations of rape, as well as others of "indecent assault, sexual harassment and physical assault occurring in the centre".

"In relation to the allegation 'Nauruan guards have been trading marijuana with detainees in exchange for sexual favours', the review concludes that this activity is possibly occurring," it said.

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.

The review, conducted by former integrity commissioner Philip Moss, said there was no evidence aid workers had helped fabricate allegations to undermine the government's immigration policies.

It 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 (also) 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 stayed silent because they had lost confidence that anything would be done about their complaints.

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 United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees last year slammed the facilities on PNG's Manus Island and Nauru, saying they failed to meet international standards and amounted to arbitrary detention in breach of international law.

The 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.

Some matters are also still being investigated by authorities, added the review, which contained redactions.

Greens 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.