Australia to check Nauru 'concentration camp' claim
- Published: 6/02/2013 at 01:44 PM
- Online news:
Immigration Minister Brendan O'Connor Wednesday vowed to visit Australia's refugee centre on Nauru as a priority after a nurse likened it to a "concentration camp" where she had witnessed attempted suicides.
File photo of the barren and bankrupt island state of Nauru. Immigration Minister Brendan O'Connor Wednesday vowed to visit Australia's refugee centre on Nauru as a priority after a nurse likened it to a "concentration camp" where she had witnessed attempted suicides.
Marianne Evers, a veteran nurse who worked at the remote Pacific camp for three weeks last year, said she had repeatedly seen detainees self-harming and been told of assaults before she quit.
"I actually liken it to a concentration camp, but the Australians don't have the guts to kill these people and put them out of their misery, because miserable it is," she told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
Canberra began sending asylum-seekers to two Pacific destinations -- the tiny state of Nauru and Papua New Guinea's Manus Island -- last year to stem a rising number of refugees risking their lives in boats to reach Australia.
But rights groups have criticised conditions in the temporary camps, which have been hastily established in the tropical posts, with most of those on Nauru living in tents.
O'Connor, who was sworn in as the new immigration minister on Monday, said the government wanted to work with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to prevent self-harm and solve other problems.
"I will be visiting both Manus processing centre and Nauru as soon as I possibly can so I can actually be properly briefed and see for myself exactly the situation in those centres," he told the ABC.
Evers, who has worked as a nurse for 40 years, found conditions on Nauru to be "appalling".
"I saw people hang themselves," she said, referring to attempted suicides.
"I think in the three weeks that I was there, there were three or four hangings that I witnessed and I don't think that has stopped since. These people are desperate."
She said she could not get this desperation out of her head.
"You know, I've seen people crawling on the floor like animals, and, 'Please, let me die' you know. These pictures don't leave you," she said.
Evers added that she had been told that gang rapes had occurred, but had not witnessed this and could not substantiate it, and the immigration department said it was not aware of any allegations of rape at the centre.
"I think invoking concentration camps is a disgrace, to be quite honest with you," immigration ministry spokesman Sandi Logan told reporters.
"Look, we understand that the temporary facility... is in a country that is hot, that is humid, but that the level of care that is being provided for the 450 men currently there is a very good level of care."
About the author
- Writer: AFP
Position: News agency