Canberra - Refugee children languishing in Australian-run immigration detention camps on Nauru are deliberately harming themselves and googling how to kill themselves, former healthcare workers-turned whistleblowers have told Australian broadcaster ABC.
Leaked documents compiled by immigration workers and obtained by the ABC revealed a "shocking spate of self-harm incidents" on the island, according to a news report on Monday.
One incident report from June 2018 said a 14-year-old refugee child "had poured petrol over herself and had a lighter."
Another report from the same month showed that a 10-year-old refugee "attempted self-harm by ingesting some sharp metal objects," which were consistent with fencing wire.
Vernon Reynolds, a former child psychiatrist on the island employed by the Australian government's contractor, International Health and Medical Services (IHMS), from August 2016 to April 2018 on Nauru, told the ABC he was "absolutely concerned" that children could die.
"I'm reasonably surprised that no-one has... I certainly hope that nothing fatal happens. I am deeply concerned that we will see that."
He said the children were exhibiting signs of severe trauma.
There are some 900 refugees and asylum seekers on Nauru, including more than 120 children. Forty children have spent their entire lives in Nauru detention and another 60 have spent half their lives there, according to the United Nations.
The Australian Department of Home Affairs was not immediately available for comment.
Another social worker Fiona Owens, employed by IHMS as the child mental health team leader from May to July 2018, alleged she had witnessed alarming rates of self-harm among refugee children.
"The only thing a lot of the children are thinking about is how to die. They Google it on the internet," she told ABC.dpa