YAREN DISTRICT – The Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Peter Dutton dismissed damning evidence against the government’s asylum seeker policy as nothing more than “hype”, following a leak of more than 2,000 incident reports revealed in The Nauru Files.

The files, leaked by The Guardian, reveal a dangerous trend by security personnel and staff, of downplaying serious reports of abuse, neglect and appalling living conditions for refugees in Nauru’s main detention centre.

Incident reports show that threats of self harm and suicide occur daily, with their seriousness downgraded to ‘Major’ from ‘Critical’ ‘if controlled and contained by detention centre personnel. On December 2, 2014, a protective security services officer reported an incident at 11.25am of a woman who attempted to commit suicide. Upon arrival, the security officer found her with a noose tied around her neck, hanging from her tent. Other asylum seekers held her body up to keep her alive while they alerted security. The security officer claims to have called a Code Blue alert immediately, then proceeded to untie the noose from the woman’s neck and placed her in the recovery position. An ambulance and interpreter were called, but there are no records that show any further assistance being offered to the woman following her suicide attempt.

Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton ignored incident reports such as the aforementioned report of ‘actual self harm’, assault, fighting, and concern for minors. An action ethically inexcusable for people who seek asylum in Australia. Dutton said, “many of the incidents had been reported before, were not serious, or were motivated by a desire to come to Australia.” Professor of psychiatry at the University of Melbourne, Louise Newman is in nightly contact with women detained on Nauru. She said, Mr Dutton’s response is “a morally unacceptable attempt to trivialise, dismiss and blame victims” of neglect and abuse on Nauru.

Incidents such as those leaked by The Guardian reveal systematic cycles of abuse and neglect in detention centres. This is not the standard by which Australia should be treating people who risk their children’s lives and their own for a better life here. Many asylum seekers come to Australia with something useful and meaningful to offer the community. They are an essential part of the three P’s of economic growth: population, participation and productivity.

Remote areas that were once bustling with productivity and culture, slowly became derelict ghost towns as younger generations moved to major cities to study and find work. Yet, immigration to these towns has saved them from such a fate. Not only does immigration help boost the economies of remote communities, it breaks down cultural barriers. When immigrants mix into Australian life in a positive way it stops cycles of ignorance, bigotry and racism. This is immigration done the right way.

In a recent development, the Immigration Minister has confirmed an agreement to close the Manus Island detention centre with the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, Peter O’Neill.

– Maggie Triantafillou, Editor (Oceania)