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Human rights groups slam Australia's treatment of child refugees who are crying out for help on Facebook


A new report brings new allegations of abuse on Nauru.

Image: Free the children nauru/facebook

A new joint report from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch slammed Australia’s treatment of refugees — detailing the plight of detained children who have been attempting to use Facebook to expose their poor living conditions. 

The report alleges that over a thousand refugees, who arrive by boat and then were taken to a detention facility on the island of Nauru, have been the victims of a “deliberate policy” of abuse. 

The report, released Tuesday, claims asylum seekers on Nauru are prevented access to medical care, beaten, sexually harassed and suffering from mental health conditions brought on by their indefinite incarceration and the violence they experience. Human Rights Watch senior counsel Michael Bochenek noted in the report: “Driving adult and even child refugees to the breaking point with sustained abuse appears to be one of Australia’s aims on Nauru.” 

The Australian government has “gone to great lengths” to prohibit the flow of information about the goings-on in Nauru, according to the report, including banning social media among the men, women and children in the facility. 

But led by a group of anonymous detained teens, the refugee children have been using Facebook in secret. With 36,699 followers, the children share pictures, art and discuss the living conditions they’re faced with on Nauru. In the last few weeks, the kids have been posing for portraits in which they hold up banners, with messages for their Facebook followers and the wider world.  

When the children began posting in November of last year, they made noise on Facebook with their candid status updates about the desperation they felt. “Every moment spent in here is full of painful [sic]. I feel like our future is bleak. We hope for people to care,” said one admin. Yet, despite the growth in the followers, a quick glance shows that the average number of likes, shares and comments the kids are receiving has been declining.  

They’ve been trying to maintain momentum in engaging the Australian public since the page was started. Sometimes they go offline, citing fears for their safety. But they always come back. The kids say they love hearing from their followers, and often post “thank you” messages to people who offer donations or support. They’re yet to comment on the release of this latest report, but here’s hoping they continue to use the social platform to voice their fears, hopes and desires.  

Only time will reveal just how much the world is willing to listen. It’s clear Amnesty International believes it’s crucial that we do. “Few countries go to such lengths to deliberately inflict suffering on people seeking safety and freedom,” the senior director for research at Amnesty, Anna Neistat said in the report. Read the whole thing here.

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