NAURU SEARCH RULE CHANGES MAKES SEXUAL HARASSMENT OFFICIAL

> Refugee Action Coalition
> MEDIA RELEASE
>
> NAURU SEARCH RULE CHANGES MAKES SEXUAL HARASSMENT OFFICIAL
>
> Reports of women asylum seekers and refugees  being sexually harassed
> while being searched on their way into RPC3, the camp accommodating
> families and single women, have emerged from Nauru.
>
> At least two of the searches, one conducted on 6 December and another
> on 11 December have been the subject of official complaints, and the
> guards involved have been identified. Refugee women on Nauru believe
> at least another five or six women have been subjected to the abusive
> searches since the rule change.
>
> No explanation has been given for the rule change, but the women
> involved believe that the guards are searching for smart phones, but
> also for perfume, lighter. Food and fruit brought from outside the
> camp is also confiscated.
>
> Around 4pm, Sunday 6 December, a married Iranian female asylum seeker
> was returning to RPC3 having attended church. She was searched by four
> Wilson guards, two women (believed to be Australian) and two men. The
> two female guards eventually forced to remove her shirt in view of the
> male guards standing a short distance away.
>
> Three days later, after lodging a formal complaint, she was visited in
> her tent by Wilson’s Security officials who told her that there were
> new rules regarding searches and that the guards could ‘touch their
> bodies.”
>
> On the night of 11 December, around 11pm, a single Iranian woman was
> stopped at the RPC3 gate by a group of Wilson Security guards, five
> men and one woman.  The female guard was an Australian national.
>
> When the woman entered the gate, a male guard searched her with a
> security wand. According to the new rule, apparently put into force
> around 6 December, a woman is required to spread her legs and her arms
> for such a search.
>
> This process has been an excuse for intimidating and abusive behaviour
> since it was implemented. Male guards have made the the searches
> intrusive and threatening. The wands are waved between the woman’s
> legs and often waved repeatedly over her breasts.
>
> The humiliating and threatening elements of such seaches are obvious,
> even if such searches are conducted by female guards in the presence
> of male guards.
>
> On the night on 11 December, the lranian woman was alone. She refused
> to spread her legs or arms for the male guard. Her refusal then bought
> a demand from the female guard told her she would have to lift up her
> T shirt and bra ‘because maybe you have something.” This was done in
> front of the male guards.
>
> After she had lifted her T shirt and bra, the female guard told her
> you have to go to a small room and remove all your clothes. The woman
> refused to go into the room, but did hand her ID to the female guard.
>
> However, when she tried to leave, a male guard stood in her way,
> repeating that she had to go into the small room at the guardhouse and
> remove her clothes. Anxious and frightened, at the whole situation,
> she refused but was forced to push past the male guard to leave the
> area.
>
> This asylum seeker, a previous victim of sexual assault and harassment
> inside the family camp was visited by Wilson’s officials who confirmed
> the new rules that allowed body searches.
>
> A few days after the search and after she had made an official
> complaint, the Iranian asylum seeker, told the Refugee Action
> Coalition, “I was very embarrassed and humiliated [by the searches],”
>
> On 18 December, this woman was asked to provide a second statement to
> two Wilson’s investigator who refused to give her a copy of the
> statement, but said it would report to ‘his boss in Sydney’.
>
> Despite the official complaints, the search regime is still in place.
> At the second interview the Wilson official confirmed that there are
> new search rules and repeated that she must spread her legs and arms
> to be searched, and that if the guards  believe you ‘have something’
> they can conduct a body search.
>
> “These instances of reported abuse on Nauru at the hands of Wilson
> guards are particularly shocking given the scale of abuse that has
> been uncovered and confirmed by previous Australian government and
> Senate inquiries. That a government contractor could put new search
> rules in place that allow for the continued abuse of vulnerable women
> on Nauru is inexcusable,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the
> Refugee Action Coalition.
>
> “It is impossible to describe the distress of the women who are
> subject to the demeaning and intrusive searches. It does amount to
> officially sanctioned sexual abuse.
>
> “It makes a mockery of the idea of that the detention centre on Nauru
> is an ‘open centre.’ It also makes a mockery of Malcolm Turnbull’s
> government’s supposed concern with violence against women – when the
> government turns a blind eye to the abuse of female asylum seekers and
> refugees on Nauru.
>
> “It is urgent that the new search regime is immediately ended. The
> searches have added an additional threatening dimension to detention
> on Nauru which is already overshadowed by violent sexual attacks
> outside of the detention centre.”
>
> For more information, contact Ian Rintoul , mob 0417 275 713.