The Nauru files: 'The detention of children must be banned'

A protester holds a placard during a rally in support of refugees in central Sydney, Australia, in this file picture ...

A protester holds a placard during a rally in support of refugees in central Sydney, Australia, in this file picture taken on October 19, 2015.

OPINION: I am sure you know about the 2000 leaked documents reported in the news last week.

These documents reveal regular and persistent allegations of assault on children — including sexual assault and serious instances of degradation — within Nauru's detention camp for refugees. 

They expose a breach of the United Nation's Convention on the Rights of the Child by Australia and Nauru. 

The UN High Commissioner has already called for Australia to put an end to the detention of children in these centres. The detention of children in these centres must be banned.

This article was supplied as part of Stuff's partnership with Unicef NZ.
READ MORE: Why Stuff is working with Unicef NZ

The New Zealand government should take advantage of its strong economic and political ties with Australia to voice our strong concerns and encourage an immediate policy response.

Our colleagues in Australia tell us this isn't the first time such incidents have been reported. Numerous inquiries in recent years — such as the Australian Human Rights Commission Inquiry and the Moss Inquiry — make it clear that Australia's offshore processing system is damaging and children and their families require immediate action on all offshore detention camps.

The current arrangements cause children harm and disrupt their development. Nauru and Manus Island were never meant to be medium to long term resettlement options.

We are deeply concerned that there is no clear resettlement plan in sight.

We urge you to encourage a commitment from Australia to resettling children and families on Nauru, as well as adults on Manus Island, by the end of the year. 

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This should include a strict timeframe for resettlement in credible third countries, for all children and their immediate families, including assurance that this be embedded within Australian immigration and detention staff policy.

There will be significant scrutiny on this issue from world leaders at the upcoming UN Summit for Refugees in New York. This is the right time for New Zealand to support Australia in taking decisive steps to end the detention of children now rather than later.

For children and families to start a new life, they must feel safe to study and find meaningful work, feel a sense of engagement in their broader communities. 

New Zealand has signed the convention, making a commitment to uphold child rights — we must do our part to respond to the world's worst refugee crisis. 

Take up the call from the UN High Commissioner and let New Zealanders know their government condemns the conditions of detained children inside all its detention centres.

- Vivien Maidaborn is UNICEF's New Zealand Executive Director.

This article was supplied as part of Stuff's partnership with Unicef NZ. UNICEF stands up for every child so they can have a childhood. Find out more at


 - Stuff

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