The review conducted by Philip Moss into the allegations relating to sexual and physical abuse of both children and adults at the Offshore Processing Centre in Nauru revealed a disturbing lack of protection for asylum seekers held in detention there, said Refugee Council of Australia President Phil Glendenning.
“The Moss Review exposed the Australian Government’s disturbing hypocrisy when it comes to child sexual abuse: instead of applying the lessons learnt via the current Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, the Government has used vulnerable children on Nauru to score cheap political points,” said Mr Glendenning.
“When there are allegations of child sexual abuse — as there have been on Nauru – the police need to immediately investigate the abuse, not probe the character of the people raising the alarm over the abuse. The removal of the Save the Children staff and the current Australian Federal Police investigations of staff members contradicts everything that we have learned about supporting victims of abuse and prosecuting perpetrators.
While the Moss Review was not able to conclusively establish the veracity of allegations of sexual and physical assaults, it noted that the asylum seekers interviewed as part of the Review were credible and that their accounts were convincing.
“What is particularly disturbing is that the Moss Review found that there was likely underreporting of sexual abuse claims. Some asylum seekers worried that reporting the abuse would have a negative impact on their refugee claims. Others felt that there was no use in reporting the abuse that they faced because they had lost confidence that anything would be done about their complaint.”
n relation to the actions of the ten Save the Children staff members who were removed from Nauru, the Moss Review found that there was no evidence to substantiate the allegations of misconduct. In fact, the Review found that most staff were dedicated, professional and acted appropriately when presented with information about assaults or abuse.
“The Australian Government’s swift removal of the ten Save the Children staff was questioned by the Moss Review. The Refugee Council questions why the Save the Children staff were so quickly removed when they had not been accused of assault or harassment and questions what happened to the staff who were accused of sexual and physical abuse: were they swiftly removed from the detention centres or were they able to continue their work there?”
The Moss Review also identified deficiencies in conditions at the detention centre and noted that asylum seekers had raised concerns about their personal safety and privacy. The Review concluded that asylum seekers’ safety should be considered paramount and that the Australian Government needs to do more in relation to infrastructure, policing and staffing, including ensuring that staff are properly trained on issues of personal safety and privacy for asylum seekers.
The Review recommended that the Australian Government ensure that the Department of Immigration, the Nauruan Government and contracted service providers all work towards greater partnership and integration. The Review made a point to say that the Department of Immigration had responsibilities beyond contract management.
“What is clear from the Moss Review is that the Government was unwarranted in publicly accusing Save the Children staff of misconduct and that asylum seekers, including children and other vulnerable groups, feel unsafe in the Australian-funded detention centre on Nauru. It is evident from the report that the current arrangements are insufficient to assure the protection of asylum seekers on Nauru.
“The Government was able to act quickly to remove the Save the Children staff from Nauru when there was insufficient evidence of any wrongdoing. There is no reason why they cannot act equally swiftly to ensure the safety of asylum seekers detained on Nauru.
“The Refugee Council calls on the Australian Government to act urgently to identify the relevant authorities and support the immediate and thorough investigation of sexual abuse and physical assault allegations on Nauru. The Government must also act to ensure that the victims of abuse are properly supported and that any perpetrators of abuse are quickly held to account.
“It is not good enough for the Government to have one set of rules for how Australian institutions respond to child sexual abuse here and another set of rules for Australian-funded institutions on Nauru. A child is a child, and they deserve our greatest protection and care.”
The redacted Moss Review report is available at http://www.immi.gov.au/about/dept-info/_files/review-conditions-circumstances-nauru.pdf
Media contact: Lucy Morgan 0488 035 535
Get the pdf here.