Sarah Hanson-Young writes exclusively for Mamamia.
When the sun goes down, tensions increase in the Australian run detention camp on Nauru. After the gates are locked and darkness settles over the camp, mothers hold their children a little closer and a little tighter.
They do that because they’re not safe and there’s nowhere left for them to run.
An ominous sense of danger hangs heavy over the family compound constantly but it’s during that most terrifying window of time, between dusk and day-break every night, in which their darkest fears are realised. Many women and children have said that they are too scared to use the toilets in the camp at night because that’s where the guards wait for them. After hearing some of the stories about what those guards do to the young women who are locked up on Nauru, I understand why.
The guards who work in the Nauru camp, and are carrying out atrocious assaults against women and children, are employed by the Australian Government and paid for by the Australian tax payer. This is being done in Australia’s name and that we will have to carry that burden for generations to come.
Built in the middle of a disused phosphate mine, the Nauru detention centre has been the focus of a long running Senate inquiry which has this week revealed a disturbing culture of abuse within the facility.
There were 30 official allegations of guards sexually assaulting children within the detention centre made throughout the inquiry. Women spoke about the culture of violence and sexual harassment that dominates the camp. Those same women are told ‘if you don’t like it, go home’. The problem is that they’re refugees and, for many of them, going home would mean death.
While water and shade are scarce in Australia’s offshore detention camps, systemic bullying and intimidation are in plentiful supply.