back to top

Aussies Are Talking To Child Asylum Seekers Being Held On Nauru

"When we see people like our page and say something in comment we want to scream in happiness because we know you and you know us."

Posted on

Facebook is banned in the Pacific island nation of Nauru, where Australia runs one of its immigration detention centres, but a group of child asylum seekers have started their own page to tell the world about their lives.

facebook.com

Free The Children NAURU features stories from children living inside the Australian-run detention centre for asylum seekers, as well as children who have been granted refugee status and are living in the community.

The page was set up by three teenage refugees aged between 12 and 16 living in Nauru.

There are some qualified adults helping them run it, including deleting negative comments on the page.

They wish to remain anonymous, because detainees are not allowed to have smartphones, and Facebook is banned by the government of Nauru.

This refugee boy from Iraq lives in the community in Nauru and wrote about how his mother is often too scared to leave the house. Asked what he wants to be when he grows up, his reply was "anything, free."

Salam escaped from Syria with his father and brothers, and was transferred to the Nauru detention centre in March last year. They've been granted refugee status, but conditions have not improved.

facebook.com

"Salam's family now refugees but still live in moldy tent in camp," the post reads in broken English.

"Still guards everywhere, still check bag, still no smart phone, no cooking. He cannot leave Nauru if other country say come. No travel document, no visa, just piece of paper that says the Government of Nauru say you are refugee.

"Salam wants to be a zookeeper when he is big so he can look after animals and they like him. Salar want to be a rugby player."

In another post, there's a voice recording of Salam thanking all the people who have liked their page.

"Thank you for saying all your words. It's very nice to hear it, I love you," he can be heard saying.

BuzzFeed News spoke to one of the people advising the teenagers who set up the page. They told them the children feared losing a link with the outside world after the school inside the detention centre closed.

The school was previously run by Australian teachers working for the charity Save the Children. After their contract expired, children had to go to the local school in Nauru. They say they are harassed by other students and attendance is low.

The administrator said she was reluctant to be involved, but wanted to guide and protect the children, and help with issues like consent forms from parents.

"They were concerned that after Save the Children left, no-one would care about them or know about them. They are tired of being spoken about but being invisible," the administrator said.

The children have been overwhelmed by the response from people commenting on their posts.

Free the Children NAURU

But other people have been trolling the page, leaving negative comments. In order to protect the children, the administrators have been deleting them, but they say it has been hard to keep up. On Friday, they considered shutting down the page.

"We also feel grateful to read those beautiful messages but can't reply back, chasing with those nasty messages because the children won't be happy with those bad messages who are sending," read a post on Friday night.

"As a teenager I am trying to get out the story of the kids and others teenagers in here," a member of the group told BuzzFeed News in an email.

Free the Children NAURU

"We have been here in detention of Nauru for more than two years and about one year in Christmas Island detention," the teenager said.

"So, we have no hope and our hearts is broken and empty from too many cries. We are also human being who are living on the earth as like everyone.

"We have forced to close our mouths and say nothing but we cant be silent anymore. Every morning when we wake up we say 'oh I am here today too' and make ourselves busy not to think but can't anymore.

"We want world to see our face, hear our voice, not just guards and immigration. We are innocent in jail. We want world to know and help us."

92 children are in detention on Nauru, according to latest figures from the department of immigration and border protection. Around 80 children are believed to be living in the community in Nauru.

Free the Children NAURU / Via Facebook: 839867502797443

Under Australian law, any person who attempts to come to Australia by boat to claim asylum is sent to an offshore detention centre. If they are granted refugee status, they are allowed to live in the community but there are no avenues for them to be resettled in Australia.

Detention centres have been under intense scrutiny from Australia's Human Rights Commission and the United Nations, with allegations of abuse and mistreatment by guards, and unsafe living conditions.

At a UN human rights review this week, countries expressed concern about Australia holding women and children asylum-seekers in detention centres on Manus Island and Nauru.

Alexandra Lee is a politics reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney, Australia.

Contact Alex Lee at alexandra.lee@buzzfeed.com.

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.