Male guards strip-searching women and girls on Nauru

The following is a message from an asylum seeker on Nauru:

Last night on 11th December 2015 at approximately 11pm the Australian security guard from OPC3 told me in front of the other male guards: “you have to take off your clothes in front of us as we are conducting a strip-search.”

I told the officer I don’t have anything to hide I only have my ID card in my hand. The officers told me you have to open your legs and hands so we can scan you with the wand.

They were laughing and leering at me and I felt I was being treated like a criminal. I kept telling that I have nothing but they told me I must take off my clothes in front of everyone, in front of all the security men. I felt like a piece of meat.

These men continued to laugh. They made me feel very uncomfortable and scared. The look in their eyes were they were undressing me. I was so scared. I was crying and shouting at them to please not make me take my clothes off. They kept insisting that I have to do what they tell me, it’s the new rule.

There was small barracks in that area and then they told me to go there and take off my clothes while I was crying and in fear. I didn’t go there with them as I was too scared and intimidated by them and at all times they continued to laugh and mock me and ridicule me.

Security said this is the new rule. Every day security are telling the women they need to take off their clothes in front of men. They are forcing young teenager girls to do the same things. They are being violated while security leer at them.

I am suffering from gynaecological problems which affects my mental health and forcing me to undress continues to bring on more torture and trauma.

I took off my T-shirt. I wear a bra. There is metal in the bra so of course it will set off the detector. While this was occurring security continued to laugh, leer, stare, and make fun of me. This is abuse at the highest standard.

Why are there no female officers conducting these searches? How much more humiliation do I need to suffer at the hands of your Australian policies? Where are my human rights to being treated with dignity and respect when you employ and empower these filthy abusive power-hungry perpetrators to treat women like this?

This is another example of male violence against women. I thought Australia was bringing in laws against abusing women, but you have sent them here to Nauru. Shame on you Australia.

I encourage the Australian public to ask for a Royal Commission on all the atrocities that have occurred on Nauru and Manus Island.

Best regards
Arezo* — Nauru

*pseudonym

Arezo was sexually assaulted on Nauru last year. She reported this to the Moss Review. She was later brought to Australia for medical treatment but was sent back to Nauru in June this year. Before she was sent back to Nauru, she was taken to the former Don Dale juvenile detention centre, where she was strip-searched and had to shower in front of female guards.

UPDATE — Monday 14 December:
I have reported this to Immigration Minister Peter Dutton’s office, who said they would look into the matter.

I also contacted Wilson Security, who told me they are “contractually obliged to contact our client first” before they can comment.

I also reported the matter to Broadspectrum’s integrity hotline.

UPDATE -10pm Monday 14 December:
Arezo has told me there was one female guard and 5 male guards when this incident occurred.

UPDATE — Tuesday 15 December:
Wilson Security’s National Marketing & Communications Manager, Kristy Cook, has provided the following statement to me:

“Wilson Security male staff do not conduct physical searches of women or children on Nauru. At no stage on December 11th was an asylum seeker strip searched by a Wilson Security guard. The claims as you refer to them are incorrect.

“I am not in a position to make further comment.”

I asked Ms Cook if male guards are present when female guards conduct searches of women and girls. She refused to answer. I asked if I could speak to someone else at Wilson Security who could answer. She said no, that’s the only answer I’m going to get.

Arezo’s response to Wilson Security’s statement: “That is a big lie. They are very dirty. I’m so upset.”

Arezo says no one from Wilson Security or Broadspectrum or the Department of Immigration and Border Protection has spoken to her since I raised this issue with them.

Further information from Arezo, provided without a translator:

Man guard did search. So lady guard when I didn’t accept for open my legs and my hand she told me you have to open your legs and your hand.

When she saw I didn’t accept she told me you have to take up your T-shirt and bra, maybe you have something your bra.

When I take up my T-shirt and bra so all men saw me she told me okay you have to go other place for take up all your clothes. I didn’t accept for going to there.

I push myself and give my ID her hands and when I wanted leave there, other man guard, he closed the door there! He told me you have to go that place for take up all clothes but I push myself and pushed open the door. I left there.

They didn’t touch me just when I take up my T-shirt and bra they look at me.

Tents in OPC3 in Nauru

UPDATE — Wednesday 27 January:
Australian Border Force (ABF) replied to my email to Immigration Minister Peter Dutton, which I sent six weeks ago. The letter is from J. Campbell — Director SG-ABF Ministerial Correspondence Section, and is dated 25 January, however I only received it today, 27 January.

The letter states: “Claims that residents at the Nauru RPC were subjected to strip searches on 6 and 11 December 2015 are false.”

I didn’t mention the date 6 December in my correspondence to Mr Dutton. The Refugee Action Coalition Sydney referred to an incident in Nauru on 6 December in its press release on 21 December.

ABF continues: “These claims have been investigated by the service provider and have been found to be baseless and unsubstantiated. Both of these incidents have been referred to the Nauruan Police Force (NPF) for investigation.”

Arezo says the Nauruan Police Force has not contacted her.

ABF continues: “All persons entering RPCs are subject to routine screening process on entry and exit to ensure the safety and security of all people living in and working on site, and to comply with Government of Nauru rules regarding permissible items. This has been a long standing routine practice at the RPC. Strip searching individuals is not part of the screening process and has not occurred. Any service provider personnel found to engage in this kind of inexcusable behaviour will be subject to disciplinary action and referral to the NPF.

“The Department of Immigration and Border Protection continues to work closely with contracted service providers to ensure all RPC residents are treated with dignity and respect at all times.”

Read the letter in full below:

Letter from Australian Border Force