Nauru detention centre has sunk to “unholy depths” say refugee advocates

“It’s time for us to end it,” says Jarrod McKenna from Love Makes A Way

Leaked reports detailing alleged abuse in the Nauru immigration detention camp have prompted calls from Christian advocates for a Royal Commission and greater public pressure to put an end to offshore detention for good.

The reports, released by The Guardian, outline “devastating trauma and abuse inflicted on children held by Australia in offshore detention.” In one report, a guard allegedly grabs a boy and threatens to kill him. In another from 2014, a guard was reported to laugh at a girl who had sewn her lips together. The Guardian calculated that amongst the 2000 leaked reports, there were seven of child sexual assault, 59 reports of assault on children, 30 of child self-harming and 159 of threatened self-harm to children. The latest Government figures from 30 June 2016 say there were 49 children being held in immigration detention on Nauru.

“They were a horrific red flag to the scale of abuse and the government did nothing…”

The Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce (ACRT) says the files corroborate other allegations of abuse made in 2014, which at the time prompted them to call for a Royal Commission into the “systematic and gross abuse of children … occurring every day in these camps and funded by the Australian taxpayers.”

“These were allegations that were completely ignored. They were a horrific red flag to the scale of abuse and the government did nothing,” said Misha Coleman, the executive director of the ACRT.

“It’s clear from the files released today that the situation has sunk to unholy depths.”

Today, they join other Christian groups in calling on the government to end offshore detention.

“In the same way that the government reacted swiftly and correctly to the expose of the abuse at Don Dale Detention Centre, we call on the government to react swiftly and bring people here to Australia, out of harm’s way.”

“[The Government] must act now in a morally responsible manner and move the asylum-seekers onshore.”

Jarrod McKenna, a founder of the Love Makes a Way movement which has run a prolonged campaign to release children from immigration detention, told Eternity that Australia is on the cusp of change.

“This is an unprecedented opportunity to shine a light into what is actually happening. Clearly what everyone now can’t deny is that this is child abuse. It’s not just historic. It’s not just in the past. It’s ongoing and it has to stop.

“It’s time for us to end it.”

Australia’s Human Rights Commissioner, Gillian Triggs told The Guardian that only the public’s attention would ensure politicians change the country’s policy on refugees.

McKenna agrees but says Christians must first pray. “We need to pray that what might be compassion fatigue somehow moves into biblical lament – a holy grief that turns into action.”

“The church is at its best when we roll up our sleeves and serve those considered ‘the least of these’ [from Matthew 25:40].”

The leader of Australia’s Anglicans, Philip Freier, said if the allegations of abuse on Nauru are true, “they paint a picture of successive Australian governments abandoning vital moral principles and treating refugees with callous cruelty to send a message of deterrence.”

“The Anglican Church of Australia … has indicated before that it stands ready to help in any way it can. I repeat this offer today,” Freier said in a statement.

“[The Government] must act now in a morally responsible manner and move the asylum-seekers onshore.”

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection released a statement yesterday saying, “Many of the incident reports reflect unconfirmed allegations or uncorroborated statements and claims – they are not statements of proven fact.”

It says some of the reports were individual matters that had already been reported in the media and investigated “over an extended period of time by a range of oversight mechanisms.”

“[The Government] takes seriously its role in supporting the Government of Nauru to protect children from abuse, neglect or exploitation.”


Some prayer points to help

  • Pray for the Australian Government as it wrestles with how to wisely and justly handle immigration in this country. Pray that they would show compassion and mercy.