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Refugee children turn to Facebook

Saturday 14 November 2015 | Published in Regional


Refugee children turn to Facebook
The creators of the Facebook page Free the Children NAURU say it was made to let asylum seeker and refugee children detained on Nauru speak out and share stories globally. FACEBOOK

YAREN – Refugee and asylum seeker children on Nauru have started a clandestine campaign to get off the island, launching a Facebook page they hope will give them a face globally.

The page appeared to be shutdown for some time this week but was back online yesterday.

The page, Free the Children NAURU, is has been posted by a group of children living both in the community and in the detention centre.

The BBC says the page was started by three children on the island, between 12 and 16 years old, along with a “moderator” who is off island.

The administrators of the group want to remain anonymous for fear the page might be shut down, as children inside the camp are not allowed smartphones, while no one in the country is meant to use Facebook.

“We started the page because we want to show everyone around the world that we are not forgotten children and not just numbers here in Nauru,” a teenager from the group told the ABC.

“We want everyone to hear our voices and the situation we going through.

“We thought if we create this page, many other peoples can see us and feel in our shoes.”

The children hope teachers in Australia and other countries will share the page with their classes so they can communicate with other children.

Many asylum seeker and refugee children do not go to school on Nauru, complaining about teaching standards at local schools and harassment from other students.

A school that operated in Nauru’s detention centre, and was staffed by Australian teachers, was closed in April.

“I am trying to get out the story of the kids and other teenagers in here. I want those teenagers who is reading our story to share this around – about the kids from detention in Nauru,” the member of the group said.

“Every moment spent in here is full of painful (sic). I feel like our future is bleak. We hope for people to care.”

The page shares the stories of various children living on Nauru, as well as their photos, poems and audio messages.

For a time on Friday the Facebook page became unavailable. Responding to a request for information – including the question of whether the page might have been taken down at the government of Nauru’s request – Facebook said it did not remove the page.

The Facebook group’s creation comes after allegations of sexual and child abuse prompted an inquiry from Australia’s government.

Yesterday, the Free the Children NAURU group posted this message:

“Thank you for all your love and caring for us. We really appreciate that. But we are really busy with the bad comments and nasty messages so it’s being hard to reply back to those who sending us love and hopes.”

“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. So it’s really affect on the kids. Good night, we will be back tomorrow and we will sleep with your loves in our heart.”

In response to that note, one Facebook user wrote:

“Please know it is our government, not us who do this to you. I don’t know a single other person apart from politicians who would say it is the right thing to do to put children in prison. I wish so much we could do something for you.”

The latest figures from the Department of Immigration show 92 children remain in detention on Nauru, awaiting refugee assessment.

Official figures detailing how many children have been declared refugees and live on Nauru were not available, but the ABC understands they number at least 80.

Children who have been declared refugees either live in the community, or in the detention camp while they wait for accommodation to be built for them and their families elsewhere on the island.

Within Australia, 77 children remain in detention centres.

Last month, police on Nauru twice raided the offices of Save the Children, a charity that has provided health services and established a school for detained children.

The ABC reported that the authorities seized computers and devices that can access the Internet, apparently in response to an unfavorable news article.