An alleged rape victim makes call to Nauruan police. Video: ABC News
Report – By the PMC news desk
An Australian women’s human rights campaign has appealed to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to urgently remove all asylum seekers from the Pacific detention centres on Nauru and Manus Island.
The group Australian Women in Support of Women on Nauru has announced that a crowd-funding drive has raised more than $20,000 to send investigative journalist Wendy Bacon and former West Australian premier Carmen Lawrence to Nauru to “bear witness” in the wake of allegations of 23 men, women and children being raped with impunity.
A 26-year-old Somalian woman – whose terrified phone plea to police for help after allegedly being raped was broadcast by ABC television – is still on Nauru. Police have dropped her case citing lack of evidence.
In a separate rape case on Nauru which left a 23-year-old Somalian refugee pregnant, the woman has now been flown to Australia to terminate the pregnancy at her request.
In another development, Nauruan police have raided the Save The Children operation and seized phones and computers from staff working for the charity.
Radio Australia reported Australian Border Force officers watched on as the charity staff were ordered to step away from their desks by local police. The report said:
One staff member said the combination of Nauruan police and “black shirts” [Australian Border Force] was “very confronting”.
A spokesman for the Department of Immigration said Australian Border Force had no role in the raid.
Save the Children staff were accused of leaking information about the Australian-funded detention centre.
In an open letter to Prime Minister Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, the Women on Nauru group said:
We the undersigned women of Australia are speaking out in support of the women, children and men detained on Nauru and Manus Island. Families, women and children who are now suffering ongoing sexual assault and torment both within and without the detention centres of Nauru and Manus Island.
Many women across Australia understand only too well what it is like to live in fear of violence and sexual assault. That’s why we can no longer watch in silence as some of the world’s most vulnerable people confront that horror in the twilight world of Australia’s detention centres.
Over recent months there have been a number of reports and media articles about the sexual assault of women and children, of women being bashed and raped once they are released to live in the community, children suffering devastating mental health issues and men being assaulted and breaking under camp conditions.
Neither Nauru nor Manus Island governments are in any position to guarantee the safety of Australia’s asylum seekers obligations, whether asylum-seekers are locked up in the centres or released into the community.
Nauru is in such a parlous state of dysfunction that New Zealand has just announced it is no longer willing to fund its justice system. Staff who report the abuse are sacked and medical staff now confront the threat of a two-year jail sentence for reporting the abuse of women and children.
Enough is enough.
We are demanding the urgent and immediate removal of all asylum seekers and refugees from Nauru and Manus Island on the grounds that neither the government of Nauru nor Manus Island [in Papua New Guinea] can guarantee the effective protection of women, children and men.
In an earlier statement from the women’s campaign group, the Nauru government and police were condemned for their handling of the latest rape allegations and for an “extraordinary” statement breaching the women’s privacy.
The Nauru Police Force (NPF) has conducted a full investigation into allegations made by a 26-year-old Somali woman (and aired on Australian TV) that she was raped and bashed by two men inside a cave in the Ewa district on August 21, 2015.
“The media release went on to publish the most personal details about the woman’s assault – details no woman would want publicised around the world,” the statement said.
“Unsurprisingly the release concluded saying: ‘The investigating officer recommended to the Department of Public Prosecutions the case be closed due to insufficient evidence. A similar recommendation was made by the Prosecutor.”
Asylum Seeker Resource Centre campaign coordinator Pamela Curr said: “No one should have to endure what this young woman has had to endure.
“She has lost everything; her health, her safety, her family and her own home and now the Nauruan government has taken the last thing she had, her privacy.”
Investigative journalist and media academic Professor Wendy Bacon said: “This is further evidence that the Nauru detention centre should never have been reopened but while this situation exists it is imperative that it should be exposed to scrutiny by journalists who have freedom to report sensitively and reveal the truth in the public interest.
“This episode only raises more questions about the treatment of refugee women on Nauru but also the safety and health services available to all women on Nauru.”
University of Western Australia professorial fellow Carmen Lawrence said: “If this woman had been in Australia there is a good chance she would not have suffered this appalling assault.
“But if she had, we have rape crisis centres, we have fantastic medical staff, we have a police force that knows how to care for women in this situation.”
“We cannot continue having two diametrically opposed realities in Australia. One where we are all calling for greater respect for Australian woman and another where women who are clearly our responsibility are routinely assaulted and then silenced when they cry out for help.”
“Prime Minister Turnbull cannot remain quiet in the face of this abuse of the most vulnerable women on earth.”