Guards in Nauru turned off the water supply in bathrooms, then pressured women to expose their naked bodies in exchange for shower time, according to one female asylum seeker.
Along with other disturbing details, these reports came to light after the Australian Greens office was contacted through written letters by distraught detainees. Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young called for an urgent inquiry, which resulted in a recently published 86-page report by the former integrity commissioner Philip Moss.
Commissioned by the immigration department, the review team travelled twice to Nauru. They engaged in interviews with asylum seekers, contract service provider staff members, Department of Immigration and Border Protection officers, Australian Federal Police officers and Nauruan officials. Asylum seekers were given the opportunity to provide any relevant written information in their own language for the review team to address.
The review substantiated claims that, on at least one particular incident, “women have been forced to expose themselves to sexual exploitation in exchange for access to showers and other facilities.” Two allegations of rape were made known to the review team; while one allegation had been reported to the Nauruan Police Force, the other allegation only came to light through the review team’s investigation.
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The review also addressed the controversial removal of ten Save the Children Australia staff members who were providing services in Nauru. Allegations arose claiming the staff were coaching detainees to engage in acts of self-harm, sewing their lips, and inciting acts of violent protests in an effort to smear and embarrass the Abbott government.
The Moss review concluded that they were “unable to obtain any other information supporting the allegation.” The ungrounded accusations against the Save the Children staff have sparked calls for a public apology.
This latest review comes as the third damning report on conditions in Australian detention centers in just one year. UNICEF chief executive Norman Gillespie made poignant remarks to the Sydney Morning Herald. “All three independent reports point to the harm—not the fabrication of harm, the actual harm … We have the evidence, we have the reports. What we need now is action …”