Australia investigates detention centre abuse reports
AUSTRALIA is investigating 44 allegations of sexual abuse of asylum seekers in detention centres.
Immigration official Ken Douglas told a senate committee that some of these cases involve children but could not say how many.
Local media say that the claims cover a period from January 2013 to July 2014.
Immigration Department Secretary Michael Pezzullo said on Tuesday that 126 children were still in immigration detention.
Speaking at a senate committee hearing in Canberra, he said that fewer than 20 of these children were facing long-term detention.
“There are 19 children in families where there are law enforcement or national security issues pertaining to an adult relative,” he said according to the News Corp website.
Mr Pezzullo added that he had ordered an examination of all of the incidents involving the alleged abuse of children dating back to 2008.
Earlier, local media reported that the immigration department said that some of the 44 allegations of sexual abuse at detention centres involved children.
Mr Douglas was quoted by ABC News as saying that they “represent sexual assaults involving a minor, to a minor or in a detention facility in which a minor was accommodated”.
He added that at this time it was not possible to determine whether all of the reports related to minors or not.
The senate committee also heard that there had been 19 reported cases of sexual assault at the Nauru Island detention facility over the past two years, according to the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper. Five of them involved children.
The News Corp website reported that Assistant Immigration Minister Michaelia Cash had told the committee that the government was doing everything possible to remove children from detention facilities.
Successive Australian governments have been heavily criticised over their harsh asylum policies, under which asylum seekers are detained for long periods in offshore camps while their applications are processed.
Australia currently detains all asylum seekers who arrive by boat, holding them in offshore processing camps. Those found to be refugees will not be permanently resettled in Australia.
The allegations of sexual assault come less than two weeks after a report by the Australian Human Rights Commission (HRC) which condemned the current treatment of children of asylum seekers.
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