Australia’s offshore detention polices deliberately ignore inhumane treatment, investigators say.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have been allowed into the Nauru detention centre, something almost no journalist or researcher gets to do.

The report is available here. 

They found that refugees and asylum seekers on Nauru, most of whom have been held there for three years, routinely face neglect by health workers and other service providers who have been hired by the Australian government.

They endure unnecessary delays and at times denial of medical care, even for life-threatening conditions. Many have dire mental health problems and suffer overwhelming despair – self-harm and suicide attempts are frequent. All face prolonged uncertainty about their future.

“Australia’s policy of exiling asylum seekers who arrive by boat is cruel in the extreme,” said Anna Neistat, senior director for research at Amnesty International, who conducted the investigation.

“Few other countries go to such lengths to deliberately inflict suffering on people seeking safety and freedom.”

By forcibly transferring refugees and people seeking asylum to Nauru, detaining them for prolonged periods in inhuman conditions, denying them appropriate medical care, and in other ways structuring its operations so that many experience a serious degradation of their mental health, the Australian government has violated the rights to be free from torture and other ill-treatment, and from arbitrary detention, as well as other fundamental protections, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International said.

“Australia’s atrocious treatment of the refugees on Nauru over the past three years has taken an enormous toll on their well-being,” said Michael Bochenek, senior counsel on children’s rights at Human Rights Watch.

“Driving adult and even child refugees to the breaking point with sustained abuse appears to be one of Australia’s aims on Nauru.”

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection has issued a statement saying; “We strongly refute many of the allegations in the report”

“The Republic of Nauru is a sovereign nation and Australia does not exert control over Nauru's functions, its law, its judicial system or law enforcement.

“Australia does, however, provide support to the Government of Nauru by funding accommodation and support services for all transferees and refugees, including welfare and health services."

Some of the Amnesty International and HRW investigators say they had to visit the island incognito after requests for official visits were rejected or ignored.

“We welcome independent scrutiny of regional processing matters, noting that access to the Centre is a matter for the Government of Nauru … information about independent scrutiny organisations is available to transferees,” the statement read.