Culture

Peter Dutton Has Accused Refugees Of Lying About The Abuse Of Children In Detention

It's not the first time Dutton has blamed everyone but himself for the atrocious situation on Nauru.

Yesterday The Guardian released 2,000 leaked reports detailing the abuse suffered by children in offshore immigration detention. The leaked files document children in detention being physically assaulted and threatened by guards, as well as incidents of alleged sexual assault and abuse. Despite calls from human rights groups for urgent action, and even a royal commission, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull basically responded with a “Meh”, shrugged off the reports, and rejected the need for an inquiry.

Former Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said that the leaked documents weren’t “A ­reporting of fact, they are a reporting that an allegation has been made”. Which is technically true, but they are allegations the government has done nothing about, and not even acknowledged, until now. But what about our current Immigration Minister, everyone’s favourite, highly meme-able politician Peter Dutton? Well, he’s finally emerged and provided comment on the growing scandal. Strap yourselves in, because he’s said some incredibly wild and terrible stuff.

Dutton has accused refugees of deliberately harming themselves and making false allegations in an attempt to get to Australia. “Some people have even gone to the extent of self-harming and people have self-immolated in an effort to get to Australia. Certainly some have made false allegations,” Dutton said on 2GB this morning. He dismissed The Guardian‘s reporting as “hype” and said, “I have been made aware of some incidents that have reported false allegations of sexual assault, because in the end, people have paid money to people smugglers and they want to come to our country.”

It’s not the first time Dutton has blamed everyone but himself for the atrocious situation on Nauru. In May he blamed refugee advocates for encouraging refugees to self-harm after a 21 year old Somalian asylum seek set herself on fire. That’s right, our Immigration Minister responded to the self-immolation of a 21 year old woman seeking asylum in Australia by blaming refugee advocates. And now he’s blaming refugees themselves for making “false” allegations around abuse and assault.

The problem for Dutton is that there’s no evidence to suggest refugees are just making up these claims. Dozens of former staff working at the Nauru detention centre have spoken out, claiming the leaked documents are “just the tip of the iceberg”. Some of most harrowing case files can be read here.

Report after report has detailed the abuse faced by asylum seekers, including children, sent to Nauru by the Australian government. Independent investigators, a Senate committee and the United Nations have all published reports that spell out how appalling conditions are on Nauru, and Amnesty International has even accused the government of deliberately creating a hostile environment in order to “deter” other asylum seekers.

And that’s basically why we know Peter Dutton is full of shit when he accuses refugees of ‘making up’ these allegations. Like Amnesty and many others have argued the whole point of Australia’s system of punitive offshore detention is to create conditions so miserable that no one seeking asylum will ever consider Australia a viable option. Children may be abused and sexually assaulted, but the boats will have stopped – and that appears to be the government’s objective here.

The Labor party have called for an independent children’s advocate to protect children on Nauru, but the only way to ensure asylum seekers are not suffering and being abused is to shut down offshore detention centres and bring refugees to Australia, in line with international law. Until we do that the allegations contained in the leaked Nauru files will just become an official part of our asylum seeker policy. The physical abuse and sexual assault of children, facilitated and paid for by the Australian government: Is that really something we can live with?