A 23 year-old Iranian asylum seeker has been savagely attacked on Nauru.
The young woman had been on day-release from the detention centre on May 16, visiting refugees in the community. She was expected back at 5pm so at 4.30pm she left the house she was visiting to catch the bus back to the detention centre.
She never arrived.
At about 8pm Nauruan police were seen wrapping the woman in a blanket and trying to place her in a police car. She had been found naked, distressed and disoriented.
She was taken to the police station, where police and Nauruan officials obstructed attempts by refugees to talk to her. They insisted that “nothing happened”.
She was later taken to the detention centre and admitted to its medical centre. She had been stripped, bashed and robbed. A sexual assault has not been confirmed but she has extensive bruising to her body and a serious head injury that left her drifting in and out of consciousness.
This attack is the latest in what appears to be an escalating series of physical and sexual assaults on refugees that has left other refugees terrified of being out after dark.
For three days police and Nauruan officials denied the attack had taken place, outraging refugees. This followed the pattern of police inaction and unwillingness of Nauruan authorities to ensure the safety of refugees in the Nauruan community.
On May 19 about 50 refugee women protested at Beach House, the office of Australian immigration and Connect service providers. The protest demanded that the Australian Immigration Department end the cover-up and reveal the truth about the attack.
Police spoke to the protesters, announcing they accepted that the woman had been attacked. “We will find and catch the people who did this,” police told the protest.
But finally admitting the obvious is cold comfort for refugees. When refugee women asked about their safety, police told them to “look after yourselves”. It is likely that without the protest, there would have been no police response.
“The Nauruan police are both unwilling and unable to protect refugees from attacks,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition. “Indeed the police themselves have been responsible for attacking refugees.
“Too many complaints have been ignored. The attackers act with impunity, knowing they will never be pursued by the police.”
In an attempt to cover-up the abuse of asylum seekers and refugees on Nauru, the government has recently shut down Facebook and introduced laws banning free speech and the right to assembly.
“But the truth is out,” said Rintoul, “Nauru is unsafe. This attack adds to the revelations that are emerging from the Senate enquiry into the Moss report of sexual and physical abuse on Nauru.”
Meanwhile, those responsible for the attacks are free to taunt and terrify the refugees.