Australian refugee law is driving detained children to suicide: NGO

Australian refugee law is driving detained children to suicide: NGO

By Luke Vargas   
Published
A satellite view of a refugee detention center on the Pacific island nation of Nauru. Courtesy: Google Maps
A satellite view of a refugee detention center on the Pacific island nation of Nauru. Courtesy: Google Maps

An Australian human rights group says the country's punitive refugee relocation policies are driving detained children to suicide.

UNITED NATIONS – The Australian government’s indefinite detention of refugees on remote Pacific islands is driving refugee children to suicide.

That was the accusation leveled by Daniel Webb of Australia’s Human Rights Law Centre before a session of the U.N. Human Rights Council on Wednesday.

“After five years of detention, these children have now lost hope. Some have stopped speaking. Some have stopped eating. A 10-year-old boy recently tried to kill himself.”

The more than 1,600 refugees held in a pair of remote camps notorious for their dire living conditions didn’t end up there by accident, but as a result of Australian laws barring any refugees attempting to reach Australia by boat from ever setting foot in the country.

In an interview with TMN after his testimony in Geneva, Webb says the 102 children held in Nauru are acutely affected by their detention.

“Forty of these children have been trapped on Nauru for their entire lives. They’re four- and five-year-old kids, yet the only world they have ever known is inside an island prison on Nauru.”

It’s not clear there’s an end in sight. A deal between the U.S. and Australia has seen 300 refugees brought to America, but it covers just a fraction of those in detention and bars any Somalis and Iranians.

“To be frank, we can see in many places around the world right now that there are cynical politicians who seek power by exploiting fault lines on race and migration. And a consequence of that is that there are 102 children imprisoned on Nauru for the last five years. The consequence equally elsewhere in the world will be suffering.”

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