The atmosphere for many children who seek asylum in Australia has become so bleak that many are seeing suicide as the only way out. A 7-year-old girl attempted suicide by using razor blades to cut her face and chest, while other children are reportedly jumping off the roofs of buildings with the hopes that the fall will kill them.
Australian Human Rights Commission was accompanied by several pediatricians as they visited immigration detention centres at Wickham Point outside Darwin, and on Christmas Island. The resulting report that the AHRC published show that majority of the children suffer from mental trauma, due to an overwhelming fear of being returned to the detention centres on Nauru. The drawings of many children in Australia’s immigration detention centres are filled with depictions of pleas for help, tearful self-portraits, and a yearning for family that speaks of a deep set sadness within. One child, a 2-year-old boy, was even reported to be playing with the cockroaches in the building since he “has no other toys.”
Pediatrician Karen Zwi has spoken out on behalf of the children despite the risk of jail time.
“These kids feel to me like they’ve been through a mincing machine – they’ve had one traumatic event after another.”
Reuters reported that on Wednesday, the High Court rejected a legal test case that sought to challenge the legality detained asylum seekers being deported by Australia to the tiny South Pacific island of Nauru, about 3,000 km (1,800 miles) north-east of Australia. On Thursday, protesters took to the streets to speak out against the Australian court ruling that has now paved the way for the deportation of over 260 asylum seekers to one of the offshore immigration camps. The ruling has even drawn criticism from the United Nations and church leaders who have publicly offered the asylum seekers sanctuary. Nonetheless, the Australian government was deemed within their legal rights of power to pay for and control the detention of these asylum seekers in foreign countries.
About 267 persons would be directly affected by the ruling, including up to 80 children 37 of whom are babies who were born in Australia, as they now face the possibility of deportation at any time with only 72 hours notice. These asylum seekers had been brought from detention centres on Nauru that houses about 500 persons, to Australia for medical treatment. One of the main contentions with the centres are widespread reports of harsh living conditions and systemic child abuse.
In their coverage of the horrors that face the children of asylum seekers in Australia, Business Insider mentioned that the paediatricians who interviewed the families, Prof. Elizabeth Elliott and Dr. Hasantha Gunasekera, for the AHRC report said that the children who had been detained on Nauru were some of the most traumatised they had ever seen.
“We were deeply disturbed by the numbers of young children who expressed intent to self-harm and talked openly about suicide and by those who had already self-harmed. The only appropriate management of this situation is removal of children from the toxic detention environment which is causing and/or exacerbating mental ill-health.”
The report also mentioned that the cramped conditions of the tents and remodelled containers where the asylum seekers are held in addition to inadequate health care, sexual and other assaults had led to 34 percent of the of the hundreds of children visited had severe to moderate mental illness while only two percent of Australia’s children suffered from the same.
The report went on to state that many of the children placed in Nauru were traumatised beforehand after witnessing atrocities at home, surviving traumatic boat rides, being moved from place to place and being faced with the presence of armed guards. Nightmares of being returned to Nauru, wetting of beds, vomiting and heart palpitations were reported as symptoms many of the children were suffering from.
The Australian Human Rights Commission submitted their report to the government and have been told that the highlighted 50 “cases of concern” of children in the detention centres would receive individual attention. The immigration minister, Peter Dutton, is adamant that though the government is committed to housing the asylum seekers offshore they will not “send children back into harm’s way.”
[Photo by Alexander Koerner/Getty Images]