Two-year-old George is one of hundreds of asylum seekers being held in detention on the Pacific island of Nauru. Photo: World Vision Australia

By Virginia Harrison
1 September 2018

(BBC News) – Suicide attempts and horrifying acts of self-harm are drawing fresh attention to the suffering of refugee children on Nauru, in what is being described as a "mental health crisis".

The tiny island nation, site of Australia's controversial offshore processing centre, has long been plagued with allegations of human rights abuses.

But a series of damning media reports recently has also highlighted a rapidly deteriorating situation for young people.

"We are starting to see suicidal behaviour in children as young as eight and 10 years old," says Louise Newman, professor of psychiatry at the University of Melbourne who works with families and children on the island.

"It's absolutely a crisis."

Australia intercepts all asylum seekers and refugees who try to reach its shores by boat. It insists they will never be able to resettle in Australia, so over the years has sent many to privately run "processing centres" it funds on Nauru and in Papua New Guinea.

Groups working with families on Nauru paint a brutal picture of life for children on the island. Many have lived most of their life in detention, with no idea of what their future will be.

The trauma they have endured, coupled with poor - and often dangerous conditions - contribute to a sense of hopelessness. [more]

Nauru refugees: The island where children have given up on life


Protesters in Australia demand that refugees being held in detention on the Pacific island of Nauru be brought to Australia. Photo: Getty Images

20 August 2018 (BBC News) – A group of human rights organisations has demanded the Australian government remove all child asylum seekers held on the Pacific island of Nauru.

It comes as reports of a 12-year-old boy on a weeks-long hunger strike fuelled fresh fears about their health.

The #KidsOffNauru coalition wants the 119 children on the island resettled by November.

Australia's controversial offshore detention policy has been criticised for its toll on asylum seekers.

The facility on Nauru was established under the country's hardline immigration policy, which sees asylum seekers who try to reach the country by boat processed at offshore centres.

The coalition of more than 30 charities and advocacy groups, including World Vision Australia and Oxfam Australia, wants all children moved to Australia or settled in a safe country elsewhere.

Chief executive of World Vision Australia Claire Rogers said the children on Nauru have "no hope".

"Many of them have lived for years in tents, they have been separated from close family members and have no safe place to play or access to acceptable medical care."

"The clock is ticking. This harmful, secretive and dysfunctional system of indefinite detention must end," Ms Rogers said.

The Australian government did not respond to the BBC's requests for comment. [more]

Human rights groups call for children to be taken off Nauru

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