After five years of indefinite detention, children on Nauru are now suicidal: UN hears

After five years of indefinite detention, children on Nauru are now suicidal: UN hears

Overnight the UN Human Rights Council heard about the unprecedented health crisis faced by people, including children, detained on Nauru for over five years.

Daniel Webb, Director of Legal Advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre, who is in Geneva to address the Council, said that after five long years in offshore detention the 102 children being held on Nauru have now lost all hope.

“As the Australian Government sits here on this Council, professing its commitment to human rights, it is indefinitely imprisoning 102 children in its offshore refugee camp on Nauru,” Mr Webb told the Council.

“These children and their families have now been detained for over five years – imprisoned for fleeing the same atrocities our Government comes here and condemns.”

“And after five years of detention, these children have now lost hope. Some have stopped speaking. Some have stopped eating. A 10-year-old boy recently tried to kill himself,” said Mr Webb.

The statement comes as increasing reports emerge of children self-harming and refusing food and water because of severe psychiatric disorders, including a rare illness known as ‘Resignation Syndrome’.

“Even the Government’s own medical advisors are now speaking out, warning that the situation on Nauru is untenable and that children will die”, said Mr Webb.

“Five years is absolutely huge in the life of a child. These kids should be free and full of curiosity and hope. Instead, they are growing up surrounded by suffering and despair. The situation is absolutely untenable.”

“After five long years, these children and their families deserve a future. And the Australian Government deserves to be held accountable by this Council for its cruelty,” said Mr Webb.

Video: Daniel Webb giving his statement at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva

The criticism comes after the new United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, last week used her maiden speech to the Council to slam the Australian Government’s offshore detention regime as “an affront to the protection of human rights”, and follows the UN Working Group on Arbitrary detention reporting the Australian Government to the Council for its illegal and indefinite detention of refugees.

“The Australian Government comes here to the Human Rights Council and masquerades as standing for human rights. But it’s a pantomime - no government can truly stand for human rights while choosing to destroy the lives of innocent men, women and children,” said Mr Webb.

Read: The Human Rights Law Centre’s statement here.

For interview call:

Michelle Bennett, Director of Communications, Human Rights Law Centre, 0419 100 519