John Menadue. Transfield, Manus and Nauru

Sep 24, 2015

Transfield and its subcontractors are profiteering from lucrative contracts to run detention centres on behalf of the Australian government on Manus and Nauru. All the indications are that there is widespread abuse and oppression particularly on Nauru. It is a disgrace.

Present policies on Manus and Nauru are unsustainable yet Minister Dutton remains as Minister for Immigration and Border Protection.

If the government will not address the problems then shareholders and clients of Transfield have a duty to act on behalf of all people and particularly children and women that are being abused in our name.

The evidence is clear. The Human Rights Commission has drawn attention to the abuse on Nauru, but rather than address the problem the government attacked the Commissioner.

The Senate Committee report in September on abuses in off shore detention concluded that Transfield was “not properly accountable’ to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.

In this blog on the 8th September 2014, David Isaacs and Ian Kerridge drew attention to the brain death of Hamid Kehazaei, a 24-year-old Iranian on Manus. David Isaacs is a Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Sydney and Ian Kerridge is Associate Professor in Bioethics at the University of Sydney. They said

“What this case illustrates yet again is that the asylum seekers detained on Manus and Christmas Islands and Nauru have been excised not only from the laws that determine access to Australia, but from the care we should provide any vulnerable person for whom we are responsible. … If we care about these people and if we truly believe in the human values that ground medicine and the moral principles that ground democracy, then we need to do two things. The first is hold a truly independent enquiry into the care of people in detention and the second is to end offshore processing.”

Commenting on the Senate Report Professor David Isaacs together with pediatrician nurse Alanna Maycock, said

“The Regional Processing Centre in Nauru is in reality a prison camp where people live indefinitely in tents, their applications are not processed for over a year and they are kept in ignorance of when, if ever, their applications will be processed. … Will the Report make any difference? We know the government will ignore the recommendations because the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection dismissed the enquiry before the Report was published as ‘a political witch-hunt by an Opposition-dominated committee.’ … The Senate Enquiry found increasing numbers of whistle-blowers willing to tell the truth; doctors, nurses, social workers, carers and even security personnel.”

The Guardian on 21 September this year reported as follows

“The International Health and Medical Services quarterly health report from October – December 2014, released by the Immigration Department under freedom of information, shows that depression remains one of the most significant illnesses for people held offshore, and that mental health deteriorates sharply after several months in detention. …

The report shows 57% of adults and 44% of children in offshore detention required the attention of a mental health nurse in the three-month reporting period. Asylum seekers also had appointments with counselors, psychiatrists and psychologists in significant numbers. Depression was the second most commonly diagnosed chronic disease diagnosed by doctors, after oral disease.

Doctors diagnosed 22% of adults and 17% of children with a psychological condition.

The IHMS reports that asylum seekers continue to commit acts of self-harm, attempt suicide and go on hunger strike, refusing all food and water.

IHMS has seen some incidents of self-harm and food and fluid refusal on Nauru during this time. … Manus has also reported a number of self-harm incidents and presentations with acute psychosis which have required movement off site.”

Transfield is preparing to sign a multi-million dollar five-year deal to continue operating the Manus and Nauru camps on behalf of the Commonwealth Government. It should be allowed to do so.

How can Transfield in honesty tell us that it’s facing up to and remedying the widespread abuses in these offshore detention centres?

The wealthy and self-righteous in the top-end of town will deplore a divestment campaign. But shareholders who care about the abuse of children and others in camps run by Transfield should sell their shares. Transfield can’t hide behind a corporate veil.

Transfield is conducting a public relations campaign to justify its role in Manus and Nauru by shifting responsibility to others. It is assuring us that with regular visits to Manus and Nauru by the Commonwealth Ombudsman, the Red Cross and UN representatives that everything is in order. It is just not credible.

But not only shareholders in Transfield, but Transfield’s clients should press urgently for Transfield to review its position. Its clients include Anglo-American, Glencore, Alcoa, Santos, QGC, Woodside, AusNet and Telstra.

If Transfield and the Australian government through Minister Dutton will not act to protect children, then others are duty-bound to act to prevent abuse.



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