Immigration minister Peter Dutton has responded to the release of thousands of files reporting widespread abuse in Australia's off-shore detention system by saying that some people invent claims of sexual assault in order to make it to Australia.
Dutton was responding to the publication of more than 2000 files by Guardian Australia. The documents, which span 2013 to 2015, are the largest cache of documents to be leaked from inside Australia’s secretive asylum-seeker detention regime.
One asylum-seeker reported that a Wilson Security staff member had attended her bedside and “began stroking her leg and face”, made further sexual advances, and said: “your problem is that you haven’t had sex for two years… why don’t you try having sex with me”.
Speaking publicly for the first time since the files were released, the immigration minister told 2GB broadcaster Ray Hadley that people shouldn't believe everything they read in the files.
"I won’t tolerate any sexual abuse whatsoever. But I have been made aware of some incidents that have reported false allegations of sexual assault, because in the end, people have paid money to people smugglers and they want to come to our country," he said.
"Some people have even gone to the extent of self-harming and people have self-immolated in an effort to get to Australia. Certainly some have made false allegations."
Earlier this year, one asylum seeker died and another was seriously injured after they set themselves on fire in the space of a week.
Refugee groups have called on the government to launch a judicial inquiry into Australia's off-shore detention system.
“The Australian government has engaged in one of the most successful mass cover-ups I’ve witnessed in my career of documenting human rights violations,” Amnesty International senior director for research Anna Neistat said.
“This leak has laid bare a system of routine dysfunction and cruelty that is at once dizzying in its scale and utterly damning for the Australian authorities who tried so hard to maintain a veil of secrecy.”
Australian Women in Support of Women on Nauru has called for the Turnbull government to hold a judicial inquiry into Australian’s off- and on-shore detention camps and close the camps on Nauru and Manus Island.
“The situation in Australia’s detention camps, both on- and off-shore, is so dire only a royal commission could get to the bottom of the systemic abuse experienced by women, children, and men in these camps,” the organisation’s Pamela Curr said.
Rob Stott is a news editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney.
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