Australia to Probe Child Refugee Abuse Claims

VoA - News Saturday 4th October, 2014

SYDNEY- Australia's immigration minister has announced an investigation into allegations guards at the Nauru offshore processing center have sexually abused child asylum seekers.

It is also alleged that charity workers have been encouraging children to harm themselves. Detainees on Nauru continue to protest Australia's plans to deny them resettlement visas and to send refugees to Cambodia.

Refugee groups claim that female asylum seekers on Nauru have been forced to have sex with guards before they were allowed to shower. There are also allegations that children have been sexually abused.

These accusations will be investigated by an independent inquiry set up by Australia, which runs the center. Investigators will also examine reports that charity workers were fabricating such incidents to have young detainees removed from the island camp, or had encouraged asylum seekers to harm themselves.

"The truth is that cases of child self-harm on Nauru are a reality," said Save the Children Australia's Paul Ronalds, who strongly rejects claims of coercion and deception.

"The Australian government's announcement in relation to Cambodia and in relation to temporary protection visas has significantly increased tensions on the island and led to increased self-harm and other unfortunate behavior," he said.

Australian Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said investigators will establish if Save the Children workers have been orchestrating protests on Nauru.

He said it may have been a ploy to help young detainees gain transfer to detention camps in Australia which includes the "tactical use of children in those protests to frustrate the ability of those who work at the center to deal effectively and safely with those issues."

Australia sends all asylum seekers who arrive by boat to camps in Nauru or Papua New Guinea. In September, Canberra announced a multi-million dollar deal with Cambodia to transfer refugees from the camp on Nauru, a decision criticized by rights groups.

They insist Cambodia, one of the poorest nations in Southeast Asia, is not capable of resettling refugees.

For more than a week, activists have reported a series of suicide attempts and self-harm at the remote South Pacific detention center.

The protests follow Australia's decision not to allow detainees on the Pacific Island to apply for temporary protection visas. The government in Canberra says while it acknowledges the protestors' frustrations, it will not change its mind.

Last year, violent disturbances caused millions of dollars worth of damage at the detention center on Nauru.

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