Report: Life of migrant children on Australian island so bad some attempt suicide

Report-Life-of-migrant-children-on-Australian-island-so-bad-some-attempt-suicide.    CANBERRA, Australia,  A report by the Australian Human Rights Commission exposes the grim reality of migrant children living in government detention centers, where some have reportedly attempted suicide.

The pediatricians who interviewed children for the report said the most traumatized children they have ever treated spent time on the island of Nauru. Photo courtesy of the Australian Human Rights Commission













According to the report, children have jumped from buildings in suicide attempts and a 7-year-old girl attempted suicide by using razor blades to cut her face and chest. At a detention center on the island of Nauru, a 2-year-old boy played with cockroaches because “he has no other toys.”

The pediatricians who interviewed children for the report said the most traumatized children they have ever treated spent time on Nauru.

A 15-year-old girl told interviewers at the Wickham Point detention center in the Australian bush that she is “at the end of the line. ”

“I’m really negative. I’m at the end. I feel maybe I should kill myself to end it all,” she said, according to the report.

As of mid-October, there were 113 children in immigration detention centers in Australia and 92 on the island of Nauru. There were also 409 children in community detention in Australia and 3,861 refugee children living in Australia on a bridging visa.

The children living in detention centers belong to the following ethnic or language groups: Arabic; Bengali; Burmese/Myanmar; Farsi/Persian; Indonesian; Mandarin; Nepali; Rohingyan; Somali; Tamil; and Vietnamese.

The commission found that “immigration detention in Wickham Point and Nauru is harmful to the health and mental health of young children and youth.”

On Wednesday, the High Court of Australia ruled legal the government’s policy of detaining asylum-seekers in offshore islands while their applications are being processed. The ruling paves the way for more than 250 people, including dozens of babies born on Australian soil, to be deported to Nauru.

“We know that harm increases with increasing duration of detention, and most of these children have been in prolonged detention for over a year,” the commission writes in the report. “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 children who were interviewed had been living in the immigration detention centers for an average of 417 days; 23 percent had been detained for more than two years.

The commission wrote that there is an “evident lack of understanding by center staff of the relationship between prolonged detention and post-traumatic stress disorder and the cumulative impact of one episode of trauma upon another.”

“For example, some children had witnessed atrocities at home, survived a traumatic boat trip, had been moved between several onshore to offshore detention centers, were traumatized by the presence of uniformed guards and actions such as head counts and had palpable anticipatory trauma at mention of return to Nauru,” the commission adds.

By Andrew V. Pestano