Aid Group Calls For Independent Monitor Of Children In Nauru Camp

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Plan International Australia: Kids in detention center need protection

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, June 2, 2014) – Aid agency Plan International Australia says a leaked report of conditions in the immigration detention centre on Nauru has highlighted the need for an independent commissioner to ensure children are provided proper protection.

The assessment of conditions in the centre was conducted by a sub-committee appointed by the Australian Government and reported in The Guardian newspaper.

Plan International Australia CEO Ian Wishart says it shows that "some basic things are being simply not provided to children on Nauru".

"This report says that no clear child protection framework is in place - you've got 190 children living in a very crowded camp with adults," he said.

"There's every risk that a child protection incident could take place, but these children have no clear or appropriate mechanism to report that.

"There's no one they can go to to say, 'look this is what's happening in my life'.

"We're told that they can report to the service providers but, you know, that's complete conflict."

Mr Wishart says the child must be able to report to somebody independent.

"We are calling for there to be sort of an independent commissioner who can oversee a child protection framework and hear allegations of abuse," he said.

Mr Wishart says it has been Plan International's experience that putting people together in a confined place, such as refugee and displaced persons camps, gives rise to the risk of physical, sexual and emotional abuse.

"We know on this camp, for example, that 28 hanging attempts have taken place and, you know, children are in the vicinity of these things taking place. And yet the question is, who are they to speak to about these kinds of things that are going on?"

He says the report has also raised concerns about the level of health services available for children in the Nauru detention centre.

"The remoteness of the place itself creates all kinds of problems and now this report speaks about the fact that there's not the appropriate medical back-up for children on Nauru.

"There's no paediatrician working at the camp and if there's a paediatric incident it can take 24 to 36 hours to evacuate the child to Australia for medical treatment in which time there's every risk of a neo-natal child dying or a child who's suffered a critical incident dying.

"Had these detentions been on Australia of course there'd be adequate medical back up in a very rapid time indeed. So it seems that we've set them up overseas and there's a lot of gaps in the protection that should be there for children.

"The government has taken away their liberty, it's therefore the government's responsibility to ensure that at all times they are safe."

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said last week that the report was old, and conditions at the Nauru detention centre had improved since the Abbott Government came to power last year.

Plan International says the detention of children on Nauru is a breach of Australia's responsibilities under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Ian Wishart says a big problem for aid agencies like Plan in helping advise the government is "the secrecy that's surrounded the detention on Nauru".

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