SYDNEY: Police on the Pacific island of Nauru raided Save the Children’s offices Thursday for the second time this month, reportedly seeking the source of leaks to Australian media about asylum-seekers.
“A second search warrant was executed by the Nauru Police Force this morning on a Save the Children office in Nauru, involving the seizure of some computers,” a Save the Children Australia spokeswoman said.
Asylum-seekers attempting to enter Australia by boat are turned back or sent to detention camps on Nauru or Papua New Guinea under Canberra’s tough immigration policy.
They are blocked from resettling on the mainland even if found to be refugees.
The British-founded charity has previously alleged that asylum-seekers on Nauru were subject to abuse, and its offices were raided in early October, with that operation also apparently linked to media leaks.
Electronic items including phones and laptops were seized.
The Guardian Australia said the raids were sparked by the Pacific government’s anger at a story it ran this month disclosing an email from the Nauruan detention center operations manager.
The email reportedly outlined plans to allow local journalists into the camp “to help reinstate the balance to the story” after allegations reported overseas of sexual assault and other serious incidents in the detention center.
Save the Children denied it was the source of the leaks.
“Save the Children has conducted a full internal audit that found there was no evidence the leaked email, which is understood to be the target of the warrants, came from our staff,” it said.
“Save the Children has utmost confidence that our staff have acted at all times with great integrity, compassion and professionalism in their work supporting vulnerable children and families.
“We continue to fully cooperate with Nauru police on this matter, and our priority remains working to mitigate the harmful impacts of offshore immigration detention, to the extent that the circumstances allow.”
Foreign journalists must pay an A$8,000 (US$5,700) application fee to apply for a visa to visit and report from Nauru — an increase of nearly 2,000 percent from early last year.
It is non-refundable if refused, deterring international media from entering the country.
Australia has said its hardline immigration policy is necessary to stop asylum-seekers from dying at sea, and denied the hike in fees for journalist visas was to shut down public information about its Nauru camp.
Some 1,565 asylum-seekers — 1,359 men, 114 women and 92 children — are held on Manus Island and Nauru, according to immigration figures up to September 30.