News National Review finds extensive abuses

Review finds extensive abuses

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A review into allegations of abuse against asylum seekers on Nauru has uncovered several dozen cases, with guards possibly trading drugs for sexual favours.

In an 86-page report, released on Friday, the former integrity commissioner Philip Moss detailed allegations of indecent and physical assault, as well as sexual harassment, at the offshore processing centre on the Pacific island nation.

The review, ordered by former immigration minister Scott Morrison following claims children had been abused while in detention, became aware of specific allegations of rape against two female detainees and a minor.

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One allegation had been reported to police, while the other two victims opted not to speak to authorities.

“These allegations are concerning,” Mr Moss said in his report, noting victims felt they could not bring forward allegations.

He also concluded guards at the centre were possibly trading marijuana in exchange for sexual favours.

Department secretary Michael Pezzullo described the findings as very disturbing, saying it was abhorrent to hear cases of a child being the subject of sexual attention in exchange for favours such as longer showers.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton told reporters in Brisbane he had zero tolerance for any form of sexual abuse.

Despite claims Save the Children staff were encouraging self-harm and false claims, Mr Moss found no information to show conclusively that was happening.

He also did not obtain any information to substantiate misconduct by 10 charity workers who were removed from the centre.

Mr Pezzullo said in light of that finding, the department was conducting its own investigation.

The review recommends Nauru police be more visible in the centre to foster a sense of understanding.

The department has accepted 19 recommendations and said it had begun to implement them in co-operation with the Nauru government, service providers and the Australian Federal Police.

Mr Pezzullo said the department was looking at its practices at all detention centres in regard to the protection of children, vulnerable people and the management of people in its care.

Transfield Services, which manages the centre, said it would co-operate with the department and the Nauru government to implement changes.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott defended the government’s processing system, saying the vast majority of detainees are being well looked after.

But he conceded on Macquarie radio: “In any institution you get things that occasionally aren’t perfect.”

Save the Children said the report shows “beyond a doubt” there was no basis to claims against its staff.

“The idea that they could do anything to put children in harm’s way is absurd. We have said this right from the very beginning,” CEO Paul Ronalds said in a statement.

The only way to guarantee the wellbeing of asylum seekers is to immediately end the practice of mandatory and prolonged detention, the organisation argued.

Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young, who raised the initial claims, said the report had re-confirmed the “harrowing” allegations of abuse.

The culture inside Nauru is toxic, dangerous and murky, she told reporters in Canberra on Friday, while calling for a review of how staff deal with abuse claims.

The Save the Children employees who were removed from the facility should be given a “sincere apology” and their jobs back if they wish, she added.

Senator Hanson-Young also criticised the government for releasing the report on the same day as former prime minister Malcolm Fraser’s death was announced.

“I didn’t think this government could get that lower, but I tell you what – it’s pretty shameless.”