Senate committee calls for urgent removal of children from Nauru

It comes after a lengthy investigation into allegations of sexual abuse and inhumane living conditions on the island.



A Senate committee was established in March, after the Moss Review alleged the sexual exploitation of detainees was happening at the hands of staff.


The findings of the Senate committee report are damning.


The Inquiry handed them down on Monday, August 31, listing 15 recommendations.


Among its recommendations is a call for the detention centre on Nauru to be downsized to what it calls a “lower-security living arrangement for all asylum seekers.”


But the Committee’s most pressing proposal is its call for all children and their families to be removed as soon as possible.


Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, deputy chair of the report’s committee, pointed to what she called “mountains of evidence,” that abuse is widespread in the centre.


“The most horrific aspects of this inquiry really are the abuse of children. The sexual harassment and assault of women… and the fact that for months, the Government, contractors, have known that this abuse has been going on and yet these women and children remain locked up inside the camp.”


The list of recommendations doesn’t stop there.


The committee is calling for more transparency, including increased access for media and the Human Rights Commission.


It wants faster processing of asylum seekers, a full audit of sexual abuse allegations, and daily random drug and alcohol testing of the centre’s staff.


“The fact is that five months’ worth of evidence from people who work inside this facility – doctors, nurses, social workers, guards, even the company management themselves who, under questioning, had to admit they cannot guarantee the safety of the people they are employed to care for.”


Immigration Minister Peter Dutton says the question of media access is one for the Nauruan government.


But he is open to other recommendations.


“Well I’m happy to consider any of the recommendations which provide for a better outcome for people. I think anyone would make that statement as a statement of the obvious.”


At the same time, Mr Dutton reiterated his view that the inquiry was politically motivated.


He’s supported by Liberal members of the committee, who’ve tabled a dissenting report from the inquiry.


The committee is made up of five members – two from Labor, two Liberals and Sarah Hanson-Young from the Greens.


The Liberal Senators, Linda Reynolds and David Johnston, argue that the government of Nauru is responsible for the running of the centre.


Pointing to the decreasing number of children in detention under the present government, they say the committee’s recommendations are redundant.


The contractor for Nauru Detention Centre, Transfield Services, has been given a five-year extension, on the same day the report was handed down.


Human Rights Commissioner, Gillian Triggs, calls that decision “extremely troubling.”


“The idea that [Transfield Services] should be granted another five-year contract in these circumstances is something that clearly needs to be reconsidered in light of the findings by the select committee.”


Professor Triggs says the inquiry confirms findings from the Forgotten Children report, conducted by the Human Rights Commission.


Following the release of the report, the government labelled Professor Triggs a partisan “disgrace” and said her position was untenable.


Professor Triggs strongly denied the accusations and refused to step down.