PERTH The Australian government should apologise for ejecting nine welfare workers from an immigration camp on Nauru for alleged misconduct after a report cleared them of any wrongdoing, one of the aid workers told media on Saturday.
The government-ordered independent report into the deportation of nine Save the Children employees from the Australian government’s immigration detention centre on Nauru in October 2014 after raising concerns from asylum seekers’ about sexual harassment from guards was released late on Friday.
The report, by former chief executive of the high court Christopher Doogan, found that the welfare workers were fired under political pressure and that there was “no evidence or reliable information” for their dismissal.
The Pacific island of Nauru is home to one of Australia's controversial refugee detention centres. It hosts about 500 asylum seekers and has been widely criticised for harsh conditions and reports of systemic child abuse.
Natasha Bulcher, who was employed by the Save the Children Fund in the immigration detainee camp, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that she was “disappointed” that the report didn’t include an apology.
The government’s decision to deport the workers “is clearly stated as having been made on the basis of no evidence,” Bulcher said.
The staff and Save the Children deserve compensation, chief executive Paul Ronalds told the ABC on Friday following the report's release.
"We've said from the start that these were some of our most talented and hardest working staff and the idea that they would fabricate cases of abuse or encourage children to self harm was always absurd," Ronalds said.
Under Australia’s immigration policy, asylum seekers attempting to reach the country by boat are intercepted and sent to camps on Nauru, located about 3,000 km (1,800 miles) northeast of Australia, or on Manus island in Papua New Guinea.
Human rights groups, including the U.N. Refugee Agency, have criticised the harsh conditions at the detention centres and deemed them inappropriate for the care of children.
Logs from the immigration department showed in the year to July 2015 there were 188 incidents of self-harm involving detainees at Nauru, the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper reported on Saturday after obtaining the information under freedom of information laws.
These included individuals swallowing insect repellent and dousing their bodies with boiling water, the newspaper reported.
(Reporting by Morag MacKinnon; Editing by Kim Coghill)
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