THE Australian Primate, The Archbishop of Melbourne, Dr Philip Freier, has called on the Australian government to move asylum-seekers detained on the island of Nauru to Australia, in the wake of reports of abuse and cruelty in the detention centre there. He has pledged the Church’s help for the detainees.
The Guardian Australia website has released 2000 leaked incident reports, which allege a high level of sexual and physical abuse over a two-year period; more than half of the reports concern children. They include seven alleged incidents of sexual assault of children, 59 of assault on children, 30 of self-harm involving children, and 159 of threatened self-harm involving children.
At the end of June, there were 442 asylum-seekers held on Nauru, of whom 55 were women and 49 were children.
Describing the reports as “shocking and saddening”, Dr Freier said that, if true, they painted “a picture of successive Australian governments abandoning vital moral principles and treating refugees with callous cruelty to send a message of deterrence”.
He added: “We have also repeatedly asked the government to end the cruel detention, especially of children, in these centres. It must act now in a morally responsible manner and move the asylum-seekers onshore.
“The Anglican Church of Australia, which already has several programs helping refugees, has indicated before that it stands ready to help in any way it can. I repeat this offer today.”