Friday August 11, 2006, 7:15am
For Immediate Release
"Refugee advocates demand answers to persistent stories held by several people around Australia, that an Australian Federal Police Investigation took place last year April involving at least two workers employed by the International Organisation of Migration in Australia's Nauruan refugee jail, and that at least one of these workers is reportedly still employed or to be employed again in the camp," WA Human Rights group Project SafeCom said this morning.
"These persistent rumours long known amongst several refugee advocates around Australia who are concerned about the situation on Nauru, that a senior IOM worker was investigated - according to one version of these rumours - for alleged procurement of sex in exchange for amounts of cash amongst children as young as ten years of age - children of Tuvaluan or Fijian migrant families living on the island," the group's spokesman Jack H Smit said.
"This week Mr Phil Glendenning, director of the Edmund Rice Centre in Sydney in a telephone conversation asserted to me that he had also heard this story," Mr Smit said, "and Mr Glendenning is not the only one: while the picture is incomplete, a number of advocates around Australia have picked up bits of the information about an alleged child sex scandal on Nauru which the Minister for Immigration, the Foreign Affairs Minister, and the Commissioner for Police and the Minister for Justice have tried to keep hidden from Australians."
"Unless Australians get a full and unabbreviated explanation from the relevant Ministers about what exactly took place on Nauru, no Senator can both satisfy their conscience and support this Bill when it comes up for debate next week. For example, Senator Barnaby Joyce has assured his constituents in an email that very possibly reached thousands of people, that he will scrutinize the Bill to ensure that children are safe from harm. There is now no way that Senators with these concerns could support this Bill before they find all the answers to these questions; and several of the usual group of backbenchers have raised the same questions about the safety of children under this new Bill."
"Mr Howard and Minister Vanstone cannot absolutely guarantee beyond any doubt the safety of children on Nauru: their secrecy was a cover to keep this from Australians, and on the face of it, they are also not interested in any further guarantees of this safety for refugee children. In a scandalous way the Prime Minister and the Immigration Minister are saying with this Bill, "bugger off" to the rights for children of asylum seekers to feel safe while they play and run, like all children of the world do, and they are in this in serious breach of the Convention of the Rights of the Child."
"The government, while implementing a safety from child abuse and child sex abuse perpetrators policy in Australia by creating a register of paedophiles, is not interested in setting the same standards for its refugee jails. To put it blatantly and graphically: if the allegations raised in these rumours are true even to a small extent, they can make all child sex abusers and perpetrators sit up with their job seeker notebooks: while they are barred from getting jobs in Australian schools and colleges, child care centres and soon in nursing homes for the aged, they can apply for jobs in John Howard's refugee jails. The just and equitable protections for Australian children do not apply to the children who fall foul of the Prime Minister's refugee gulags. If the allegations are true, then this Bill should be called "John Howard's Indecent Proposal Bill" before it hits the rubbish bin of the Senate", Mr Smit concluded.
For more information:
Jack H Smit
Project SafeCom Inc.
[phone number posted]