The questions the ABC did not ask: which pedophiles raped these children? Are they boat people, too?
Yet another extraordinarily one-sided report on boat people from the ABC’s 7.30 last night:
LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: Tomorrow the High Court will rule on a case that could determine the fate of dozens of asylum seeker children held in Australia’s immigration detention centres. Whatever the result, it appears the Federal Government is planning to redetain at least 90 children. That’s horrified doctors who’ve treated some of those youngsters, so horrified them in fact that they’ve decided to speak to 7.30, even though they risk jail terms for doing so. Medical reporter Sophie Scott has also spoken to two girls who’ve been transferred to the Australian mainland for medical treatment about their experiences.
KAREN ZWI, PAEDIATRICIAN: The children found it so much easier to communicate what they were experiencing through drawing. I think it’ll be very unusual to get this consistent pattern of drawing yourself behind bars without hands and crying if you were a normal healthy child.
SOPHIE SCOTT, REPORTER: These pictures are drawn by children in Australia’s immigration detention centres… Assiya is one of them.
ASSIYA, FORMER DETAINEE: You have so much time on your hands…. There is no hope, there is nothing. And people live in fear every single day.
SOPHIE SCOTT: Young people held in Australian-run detention centres on Christmas Island and Nauru tell their stories for the first time.
JAMILAH, FORMER DETAINEE: My friends, all of them, they were harming themselves. I tried to be strong and say, like, you know, that was not a right thing I could do. I was thinking killing myself was the last thing I could do in my life when I don’t have any hope.
SOPHIE SCOTT: Assiya, as we’ll call her, spent 14 months on Nauru….
ASSIYA: There is no help there. Like, all they say is, “Do you want to take medication?” And the medication given me was, like, just making me worse. You see people self-harming every day, people hanging themself, cutting themself…
KAREN ZWI: We’ve seen some even more distressing cases of children who have been sexually abused in places like Nauru and have become quite distressed as a result of that… This child was actually raped on Nauru, according to the allegation… He actually began to self-harm, as I’ve seen several other children do as well, and eventually he was transferred over to the mainland for treatment.
SOPHIE SCOTT: This young child is now facing being returned to offshore detention. His alleged attacker is still there…
HANSANTHA GUNASEKERA, PAEDIATRICIAN: Across the detention network there’s a report of a sexual assault every 13 days. Most of those are children
Among the obvious questions not asked:
– Who raped these children? Are the alleged rapists and pedophiles other detainees? What guarantees do we have that they will never, never come to Australia?
– Does the high level of alleged sexual attacks on children apparently by detainees reflect different cultural attitudes, and what implications does that have for refugee policy?
– Why haven’t the children or their parents ended their detention simply by going back home? How many are genuinely in fear of their lives if they return, and how many are economic refugees?
– Under what circumstances were the art works by the children produced? Are they authentic expressions of distress or were the children coached to produce them to increase pressure on the government to let in the detainees? Why did the handwriting on some of the childish pictures look adult?
– What would be the consequences of letting in the children? Would that encourage more parents to load their children onto boats to Australia, and how many would drown?
– What ages were the “children” interviewed last night? What effort was made to check the circumstances under which they came?
The bare facts or assertions presented last night are indeed troubling. But this report was so one-sided that it simply cannot be taken seriously as a contribution to a debate over a very difficult issue.
Nauru police commissioner Corey Caleb rejected the reports, claiming “refugees regularly fabricate allegations of assault and sexual assault”.
In statement released on Tuesday, Commissioner Caleb lambasted “friendly Australian journalists who have a political agenda” for publicising the “lies”.
“They tell us they have been assaulted but their stories seldom add up,” he said.
He accused journalists of encouraging false reporting, adding that the refugees would be charged with making a false complaint had the allegation been made in Australia.
Note that Caleb’s statement was released yesterday, presumably before the 7.30 report was aired.