They’ve come from as far as Iran and Afghanistan, Somalia and Myanmar.
But the children are now stuck on Nauru, a desolate island in the South Pacific that’s little more than eight miles square. They’re caught in a strict Australian immigration system that has left them stranded.
Some of them have become so depressed after years of living in limbo that they have lost their will to live, those working with them say.
About 100 children live on Nauru, one of the remote islands where Australia operates offshore processing centers for migrants. They’ve been there for so long that “several children have lost all hope to the point that they are no longer speaking or eating,” Daniel Webb, director of legal advocacy at the Human Rights Law Center in Melbourne, told The Washington Post this week.
“Even some of the government’s most senior medical advisers are warning that children may die,” he said. “It’s a miracle one hasn’t died already.”
When they left home, their families were hoping to reach Australia, where many planned to apply for asylum. But in 2013, Australian authorities changed their migration policy, authorizing the detention of migrants and asylum seekers who try to reach Australia by boat. Instead of being allowed into Australia, they are placed, apparently indefinitely, on Nauru, or Manus Island, which is part of Papua New Guinea.