In August 2016, two thousand incident reportsfrom Australia’s detention camp on Nauru Island were published by the Guardian.
These so-called “Nauru Files” revealeddetailed accounts of violence, child abuse, self-harm, sexual assault and the otherwisebrutal living conditions endured by refugees and asylum seekers.
Following the publication, two United Nationsagencies, as well as religious, medical, legal and human rights groups demanded that theAustralian government seek justice for the alleged crimes.
So what exactly is going on inside the NauruRegional Processing Center? Well, to start, Australia has some of thestrictest immigration policies in the world.
Under a controversial 2013 policy, refugeesand asylum seekers attempting to enter the country by boat are either automatically turnedaway, or sent to one of the country’s two offshore detention centers, Nauru and Manus.
According to the Australian government, detaineesstay on Nauru for an average of 15 months, but reports by human rights groups reportthat many stay on the island for years.
Together the two detention centers activelyhold nearly 1,300 people.
The Australian government recently announcedplans to close Manus detention centre, but did not specify where its roughly 800 detaineeswill go.
The reports leaked to the Guardian were compiledby guards, teachers, case workers and medical officers of the Nauru Facility.
These documents, as well as other reportsfrom human rights organizations, describe “prison-like” living conditions, medicalneglect, and regular, systematic assaults by prison guards, locals and even other asylumseekers.
Specific incidents include a prison guardthrowing rocks at a group of children, a young boy being picked up and thrown, and even ayoung girl saying she’d been “cut from under” by a male detainee.
Self-harm as an act of protest is a commontheme.
One woman slit her wrists with a pencil, anotheryoung girl sewed her lips together, and was then laughed at by a guard.
Shockingly, more than 50 percent of theseincidents involved children, even though they represented just 18 percent of detainees duringthe time of the reports.
But perhaps the most damning reveal was theAustralian government’s failure to address these allegations.
In 2015 in the aftermath of similar inquiries,officials promised to ensure that the “standard of care” in their regional processing centerswas “as high as it possibly can be”.
Its contracted security agency insisted thatsexual assault allegations are addressed with urgency.
However the documents suggest that seriousreports of abuse and self-harm have only escalated.
Until the Nauru Files, little has been knownabout conditions in the detention centers.
Both islands are virtually shut off from theoutside world; detainees are not allowed smartphones or access to social media and all employeesof the facilities are legally barred from revealing any internal details.
Media access is also tightly controlled bythe Nauru government; press visas are extremely expensive and nearly all applications aredenied.
In response to the Nauru Files, the Australiangovernment has said the reports are uncorroborated, unconfirmed, and are “not statements ofproven fact” and instead held them up as evidence of Nauru’s “rigorous reportingprocedures”.
And although ‘rigorous’ may not be themost accurate description, these sorts of reports are collected daily, leading manyto suggest at the recent leaks are the tip of a much, much larger iceberg.