LONDON, Aug. 3 (UPI) — Australia has instituted a system of abuse of refugees in the island nation of Nauru, the activist group Amnesty International reported.
The London-based non-governmental organization said Tuesday those seeking asylum in Australia are routinely transferred to Australian-administered settlement camps in nearby small nations, to make clear they will not be staying in Australia. In Nauru, an independent island northeast of Australia, 1,200 people are living in conditions Amnesty International’s Dr. Anna Neistat described as a “system of deliberate abuse. It is essentially like an open-air prison for these refugees and people seeking asylum.”
“I’ve conducted over 60 investigations into human rights abuses in countries like Afghanistan, Syria, Zimbabwe, China but few other countries go to such lengths to deliberately inflict suffering on people searching for safety and freedom. I was not expecting this kind of shocking abuse,” she said.
An Amnesty International statement, based on a 12-day investigation in Nauru in conjunction with the NGO Human Rights Watch, says refugees are denied medical treatment and are subject to degradation to the point that many have mental health issues; pregnant women and young children lack crucial medical services; and native Nauruans respond to the refugees’ presence with violence and intimidation. Six women interviewed by Amnesty International, of 84 people in total, told stories of sexual assault or harassment.
Those interviewed said they were discouraged by police from filing complaints with government agencies and with Australia’s International Health and Medical Services, the company hired by the Australian government to oversee refugee healthcare in Nauru.
Amnesty International called for settling refugees in Australia and closing Nauru’s processing center.