Australia

Australia's immigration minister accuses asylum seekers of lying

File photo of Peter Dutton Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Australia's immigration minister Peter Dutton has dismissed a leak of asylum seeker incident reports as "hype"

Australia's immigration minister has said asylum seekers lie about sexual abuse and deliberately self-harm to secure passage to the country.

Peter Dutton made the comments a day after 2,000 leaked reports from the Nauru detention centre were published online.

The "Nauru papers" describe allegations of sexual abuse, instances of self-harm and squalid living conditions.

Their release has renewed calls for Australia to review its policies.

The Guardian published the entirety of the leaked material, which consists of reports written by staff members at the Nauru detention centre between 2013 and 2015, in an online database.

But Mr Dutton downplayed the leak, saying most of the allegations had "been reported before".

"I won't tolerate any sexual abuse whatsoever. But I have been made aware of some incidents that have been reported, false allegations of sexual assault, because in the end people have paid money to people smugglers and they want to come to our country," he told 2GB Radio.

Image copyright Amnesty International
Image caption A photo taken by Amnesty International shows the inside of a tent housing asylum seekers in Nauru

"Some people have even gone to the extent of self-harming and people have self-immolated in an effort to get to Australia, and certainly some have made false allegations in an attempt to get to Australia."

'Vigorous' reporting

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has resisted calls from the Greens party to hold a royal commission into the tough offshore detention regime.

The immigration department has defended the documents as evidence of a "vigorous" reporting system for serious incidents at the centre.

But Human Rights Commissioner Gillian Triggs told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. that keeping asylum seekers on Nauru was "illegal", "immoral" and "unsustainable".

"Most of [the documents] are incident reports where professionals of one kind or another have reported these kinds of incidents," she said.

"We're not seeing change and we're seeing of course an environment of secrecy where we can't get other reporters into those facilities."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Nauru, the world's smallest republic, holds one of Australia's migrant camps

Australia outsources the processing of asylum seekers who trying to reach Australia by boat to two privately run centres - one on Nauru and another on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea.

The companies that run the facilities, security and services at the centres are contractually required to report incidents of various kinds within specified time frames.

A large number of the reports concern children, either describing alleged abuse or disturbing and unusual behaviour brought on by trauma.

Twenty-three of the reports describe sexual assaults, particularly against young women, and hundreds of incidents of threatened and actual self-harm are contained in the documents.

Australia and asylum

  • The number of asylum seekers travelling to Australia by boat rose sharply in 2012 and early 2013. Scores of people have died making the journey.
  • To stop the influx, the government adopted tough measures intended as a deterrent.
  • Everyone who arrives is detained. Under the policy, asylum seekers are processed offshore at centres on Nauru and Manus Island in Papua New Guinea.
  • The government has also adopted a policy of tow-backs, or turning boats around.

Read more: Why are asylum seekers so controversial in Australia?

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