The National, Monday November 4th, 2013
A REPORT commissioned by the Australian immigration department disputes claims that staff knew young male asylum seekers were being sexually abused at the Manus Island processing centre.
However, the independent review recommends a separate area be set up within the facility to accommodate “vulnerable transferees” who need to move out of the single adult male compound for their own safety.
The report by lawyer Robert Cornall was sparked by an SBS Dateline programme in July, in which the former occupational health and safety head at the centre, Rod St George, said staff knew as many as half a dozen young men were being assaulted and sexually abused.
St George claimed acts of self-harm and attempted suicide were occurring “almost daily” at the Papua New Guinea facility, where he worked for a month before quitting in April.
The whistle-blower said others were forced to sew their lips together and one asylum seeker had solvent poured into his ear.
But Cornall, a former head of the federal attorney-general’s department, said he found no evidence of sexual abuse and torture occurring with full knowledge of staff.
He said the allegation that victims were being returned to the single adult male compound to be raped again were untrue.
The report, dated Sep 30, but only recently posted on the department’s website, said the major allegations of sexual assault involved a young man known as “Mr A”.
It said the “general understanding” was that Mr A was sexually assaulted twice in the single adult male compound and reported the abuse.
The report said staff at the centre had discussed moving Mr A to the family compound, but the Immigration Department had deemed it unacceptable “as single adult males could not live in a compound with families and children”.