Human rights advocates have called for the immediate resettlement of refugees detained on Nauru after documenting claims of severe abuse, inhumane treatment and neglect.
In a joint statement issued by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, the advocates have condemned Australia’s treatment of the refugees and asylum seekers, describing it as “cruel” and “inhumane”.
It comes after an advocate was able to remain on the island for 12 days last month, interviewing more than 80 people detained.
“Many (refugees) have dire mental health problems and suffer overwhelming despair. Self-harm and suicide attempts are frequent,” a spokesperson said.
“(The refugees) endure unnecessary delays and at times denial of medical care, even for life-threatening conditions.”
The advocate said the physical safety of those held on Nauru was a serious concern, with many asylum seekers beaten and robbed.
Every woman interviewed said she could not go out alone while other said that local police made little or no effort to investigate attacks against them.
Amnesty International said Iranian refugee Marjan received eight stithces in her head after she was attacked by two men who hit her with a metal pole. Police refused to open a case, suggesting "she hit herself".
Children who attend local schools said they suffer frequent bullying and harassment from Nauruan students, who tell them to go back to their home countries.
“Australia’s policy of exiling asylum seekers who arrive by boat is cruel in the extreme,” Anna Neistat, Senior Director for Research at Amnesty International, said.
“Few other countries go to such lengths to deliberately inflict suffering on people seeking safety and freedom.”
Refugees and asylum seekers described the Nauru conditions as “prison-like,” with claims of regular searches, two-minute showers, filthy toilets and confiscation of “prohibited” items including food and sewing needles.
“Australia’s atrocious treatment of the refugees on Nauru over the past three years has taken an enormous toll on their well-being,” Michael Bochenek, Senior Counsel on Children’s Rights at Human Rights Watch, said.
“Driving adult and even child refugees to the breaking point with sustained abuse appears to be one of Australia’s aims on Nauru.”
Human rights figures show the Australian government spent $415million on its Nauru operations in the fiscal year ending on April 30, 2015 – nearly $350,000 for each person held on the island.