SYDNEY, 10 August 2016 – UNICEF has again called on the Australian Government to provide a permanent resettlement solution for asylum seekers and refugees on Nauru* as allegations of child sexual abuse, gender based violence and of cruel and inhumane conditions re-emerge, only weeks after UNICEF released a joint report on the child protection system in Nauru with the Ministry of Home Affairs.
“There is undeniable, cumulative evidence that suggests that asylum seeker and refugee children are not safe under existing arrangements on Nauru. The Australian Government must take immediate action for children and their families to prevent further harm,” said Nicole Breeze, Director of Policy and Advocacy, UNICEF Australia.
The Nauruan Government has taken significant steps to improve their domestic child protection system, including the passing of the Child Protection and Welfare Act, and the joint study stresses further work will be required to build a comprehensive child protection system.
This legislation is a positive development and is vital to all children on Nauru. However gaps, including those in human and financial resources, raise serious questions about whether the child protection and social welfare systems are feasible. Conducted over 18 months, the study cites 13 recommendations to prevent violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation of children.
“Understanding that the Australian Government may come under scrutiny by world leaders at the upcoming United Nations Summit for Refugees and Migrants in New York, UNICEF encourages the Prime Minister to commit to a legitimate resettlement plan for asylum seekers and refugees on Nauru and Manus Island,” added Breeze. “It is time for children and their families to start a new life, defined by safety, recovery, education, meaningful work and positive engagement with their broader communities.
“Australia has unfairly shifted its responsibilities for asylum seekers and refugees to our Pacific neighbours for far too long. We must do our fair share to respond to the world’s worst refugee crisis. UNICEF also called on the Government to increase Australia’s Humanitarian Intake Programme to 30,000 places.
“It is commendable that the Nauruan Government is taking positive steps to improve protections for all children on the Island. However, the existing body of evidence suggests that it is very difficult to keep children and families with such complex needs safe on Nauru. Nauru and Manus Island were never meant to be medium to long term resettlement options,” said Breeze.
Note to editors:
*Nauru is an island country in Micronesia, Central Pacific.
Link to the Report
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Nicole Mackey, UNICEF Australia, +61 403 964 334, firstname.lastname@example.org
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