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Detention of immigrant children on Nauru Island

Tragedies linked to immigration are not limited to the Mediterranean, North Africa or the border between Mexico and the United States. There are other routes that do not make it into the international news headlines, but that see just as much immigrant traffic and are often the scene of even worse conditions. This is precisely the situation on Nauru, a tiny, isolated island of barely 20 square kilometres located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. It is on this island--which has been an independent republic since 1968--that immigrants headed towards Australia find themselves, thanks to an agreement between the two states. The treatment that awaits them there is inhumane: violence, sexual abuse, continuous physical and psychological threats, endless procedures for requesting asylum and aggression. A group of attorneys and politicians representing the opposition in Australia has reported that at present, 119 children with very serious health problems are being forcibly held in the Nauru camp. Among them is a 12 year old boy who has refused to eat or drink for nearly two weeks, is gravely ill and needs to be transferred off the island to receive care elsewhere. Appeals to free them have been made by more than 30 NGOs in Australia.

The Australian government maintains that the children are not being detained but NGOs point out that the children cannot leave the island nor, as is often the case, meet up with their parents, as has been seen in photos and videos. It is not the first time that the atrocities occurring in the Nauru camp have come to light; however, public opinion has yet to be mobilized. Two years ago, in 2016, The Guardianlaunched an investigation in which numerous cases of sexual violence, abuse, mistreatment, self-harm and threats of death were reported. Of these cases, many of the victims were children. Immigrants on Nauru are, quite often, from Southeast Asia, but Syrians and Afghan refugees have also been found there. A report from Amnesty International spoke of torture and threats, as well as of the mental disorders that have developed among many of the camp’s “inhabitants”. On more than one occasion, Malcolm Turnbull, Australia’s Prime Minister, has spoken about the need to establish an investigative commission.

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