Labor’s Shadow Foreign Minister says she is “deeply concerned” about reports of sexual violence against women sent to Nauru by Australia, but has declined to add her voice to calls for them to be moved off the island.
Speaking on Radio National this morning, Tanya Plibersek responded to questions about a recent ABC report highlighting the ongoing instances of sexual assault against refugees sent to be detained and settled on the island by Australia.
“I am deeply concerned about these most recent reports and I think the government should be held fully accountable for both the way Nauru and Manus Island are being run,” Plibersek said of the Labor policy adopted by the Coalition.
“We have heard reports not just on Nauru but also on Manus of violence against inmates that should be fully investigated and anyone accused of such a crime should be fully held to account.”
Despite those concerns, the Shadow Minister dodged a question about joining calls from the Greens for women found to be refugees to be brought to Australia.
“I think the first step is to make sure people do have full recourse to the law and Australia as the funder of these institutions – camps – should have an arrangement with the government of Nauru and of course with the authorities on Manus Island to make sure any claims like this are fully investigated and that if people are guilty they are completely fully held to account and that the victims are given proper support,” she said.
“There is no question that the way these institutions are being run is unacceptable to Australia and to the international community and I believe the government should answer for any of these allegations, no question.”
In September 2012 the Gillard government recommenced the removal of asylum seekers to Nauru, a practice abandoned by Labor when it came back to office in 2007.
The processing and resettlement of refugees on Nauru and Papua New Guinea were both subsequently reintroduced.
Refugees processed and released from the Nauru detention centre have long complained of poor medical treatment in the community and a lack of safety, with unaccompanied minors facing assaults in late 2014.
In a shocking expose aired earlier this week, the ABC’s 7:30 Report revealed video of a Somali woman on Nauruan calling police to report she had been raped.
The woman, known as Najma, said she had not had contact from police since making the report.
A federal Senate Inquiry into the Nauru detention centre was told the country had seen a breakdown in the rule of law, with New Zealand recently withdrawing aid funding in light of serious allegations of corruption against the country’s president and justice minister.
Greens’ Immigration Spokesperson Sarah Hanson-Young this week called for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to remove children and families from Nauru.
“We cannot force these women and children to live in terror any longer. Something must be done,” Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said in a media release.
“There is a mountain of allegations forming and it’s clear that the women and children who have left the camp and are now settled on Nauru are not safe.
At its recent national conference, Labor delegates voted down a motion to force the party to reject boat turn backs, while voting to increase Australia’s refugee intake.
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