More than 100 refugee children remain on Nauru because our government put them there, and keeps them there in the name of deterring others from seeking safety on our shores.
Many have been there for hundreds of days.
Many have become so desperately unhappy, they’ve resorted to self harm as their hopes of ever leaving the isolated island dwindles.
“I had one little girl, which I’ll never forget, who I think had just had enough and there was a chair right on the balcony,” Alyssa Munoz, a former child protection worker for Save The Children told ABC’s Four Corners program last night.
“She stood on the balcony, and I came over and I said, ‘what are you doing?’ And she said, ‘if I jump right now it wouldn’t matter, it wouldn’t — who cares?’
“For about ten minutes I’m trying to talk this beautiful [girl], she was only nine, ten at the time, just not to jump off the balcony of the school. I mean that’s how traumatised these children are.”
That little girl was 10-year-old Batol, who came to Nauru with her father and sister.
Batol is 10. And has spent 976 days on Nauru. Source: ABC/Four Corners
Batol was the "most vivacious, spirited" girl Munoz had ever met.
She wanted to be a vet, a dream which seems almost impossible knowing she's spent nearly a third of her short life on Nauru and — since the government closed the Save the Children school in mid-2015 — is now too scared to attend classes.
A damning report released today by Amnesty International, entitled "Island of Despair", outlines a flawed system that's "explicitly designed to inflict incalculable damage on hundreds of women, men and children".
It describes the offshore 'processing' regime as one of deliberate "neglect and cruelty" and nothing short of "torture under international law."
It describes the extent of our abuse of children — like Batol — as "chilling".
"The extent to which child refugees are subjected to abuse on Nauru is chilling." - Amnesty International, Island of Despair: Australia's 'processing' report.
This morning, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull once again appeared on our national broadcaster and, for the umpteenth time, defended the unequivocally harmful policies of successive Australian governments.
As the ABC's Fran Kelly put it, "The world's leading human rights body is accusing your government — our government — of torture, you need to respond to that don't you?"
He responded by rejecting the report "totally", by claiming his government's policy was "compassionate and strong" and by reminding listeners they'd "stopped the boats".
The Amnesty report includes interviews with 58 refugees and asylum seekers, as well as current and former service workers who've served on Nauru.
It builds on the findings of their August report and countless others, as well as the 2,000 leaked incidence reports which formed the basis of the Guardian's shocking Nauru Files.
Just because Australia has forgotten about the 755 refugees — 128 of whom are children — on Nauru, doesn't mean the world has.
Just because because our government refuses to acknowledge the nature of its actions, doesn't mean they can't be held accountable.
"The idea that one group of people can be subjected to horrendous abuse in order to prevent another group from putting themselves in harms’ way is the flawed foundation of Australia’s policy towards asylum-seekers," the report says.
"There are alternatives – it’s a matter of political will."
Feature image: ABC/Four Corners
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