Wilson Security to withdraw from Australia's offshore detention centres

Refugee children in concentration camp

The company announces it will leave Manus Island and Nauru detention centres at the end of its contract in October 2017

Wilson Security says it no longer wants to work in Australia’s offshore detention regime. The company says it will leave the Manus Island and Nauru detention centres at the end of its contract, which leaves the government without a camp manager or security firm for the offshore detention network.


Wilson joins the Australian government’s major contractor running the camps, Broadspectrum – owned by Spanish giant Ferrovial – in announcing it will abandon offshore detention when the current contract ends in October 2017.


“In line with Broadspectrum’s future intentions Wilson Security can now confirm that it will also not tender for any further offshore detention services,” the company said in a statement.


“The provision of security services at regional processing centres (RPCs) is not in line with Wilson Security’s long-term strategic priorities. Wilson Security will continue to deliver all aspects of its current contract with Broadspectrum until completion of the contract.”


The companies involved in offshore processing have faced intense pressure in recent months, with protests at their places of business, divestment and boycott movements, and a sustained public campaign highlighting systemic abuses happening inside the offshore detention centres.


Wilson has been under particularly intense pressure since the publication of the Nauru files which revealed incident reports detailing allegations of Wilson employees on the island assaulting asylum seekers and refugees, including allegations of sexually assaulting women and children, and attacking and choking children.


The 2,000-plus leaked incident reports in the Nauru Files also showed that Wilson guards pressured other workers on the island to downgrade incident reports, from critical to major or minor, even when it was clear – such as in the case of a suicide attempt – that the incident was critical.


The Nauru files also revealed that Wilson Security officials may have misled a Senate inquiry, by failing to fully reveal the number of assaults on children inside the Nauru detention centre.


Senior Wilson officials have previously been rebuked for giving false evidence to the Senate, and are likely to be called back to explain at least 16 incidents of child abuse that they failed to reveal to senators under direct questioning. The incidents include allegations a guard sexually assaulted a young boy, a child being choked by a guard, and a guard shining a torch on the genitals of a girl he had forced to go to the toilet on the ground.


Wilson Security has maintained that all of its evidence to the Senate was full and correct. The company had “fully cooperated with and, based on the information to hand, provided honest and accurate evidence,” to the inquiry, a spokeswoman said in a statement to the Guardian.


Wilson guards have also been accused of illegal behaviour on Manus Island. In July 2015, three Wilson guards allegedly drugged and gang-raped a local woman inside the accommodation block of the detention centre. However, the men were flown off the island and out of Papua New Guinea before police could investigate.

Despite promises the men allegedly involved would be returned to face questioning, they have never been repatriated.


The Wilson statement announcing its departure from offshore processing said: “Wilson Security has provided the security services for the RPCs as subcontractor to Broadspectrum since 2012. The company is primarily responsible for providing professional security personnel 24-hours-a-day to create an environment in which asylum seekers feel safe.


“Wilson Security has carried out its contractual obligations to the best of its ability and takes pride in its performance.”


A recent report by advocacy group No Business in Abuse and the Human Rights Law Centre argued companies directly involved in offshore detention, as well as their banks and investors, were complicit in the human rights abuses occurring in the centres.


International legal experts at Stanford Law School argued Ferrovial’s directors and employees could be liable for crimes against humanity because of their involvement in Australia’s offshore camps.


In the wake of Wilson’s announcement on Thursday, human rights director at GetUp, Shen Narayanasamy, said: “The government has been left stranded, ignoring the reality that all camp operators have publicly withdrawn support.


“The offshore detention policy has failed. Two thousand people have been unlawfully imprisoned on these islands for nearly three years.”


Offshore processing has been difficult for the companies involved. Protestors have regularly blockaded Wilson Security carparks, and urged shopping centre managers to break their contracts with Wilson.


Broadspectrum was forced to change its name from Transfield last September, after the owners of its parent company withdrew permission to use the Transfield name, saying they wanted to distance themselves from the controversies of offshore detention.


Broadspectrum was then sold to Spanish infrastructure giant Ferrovial at a significant discount.


Ferrovial announced it intended to withdraw from Nauru and Manus Island at its earliest opportunity, in February 2017, but the Australian government exercised its option to unilaterally extend Ferrovial’s contract on the island for eight months.


The Manus Island detention centre was ruled “illegal and unconstitutional” by the PNG supreme court in April this year. Both the PNG and Australian governments have committed to closing it, but there are no plans for where its 854 detainees will go.


Australia’s offshore detention centres have attracted widespread and consistent criticism since the country reintroduced its policy of “offshore processing” in 2012.


Currently, people who arrive in Australia by boat without a visa seeking asylum are sent to either Nauru or Manus Island, where most are held in indefinite, arbitrary detention. They are told they will “not, under any circumstances, be settling in Australia”, but there are no other viable resettlement options for them.


At present, there are 843 men held on Manus Island, and 466 people, including 50 children, in the Nauru detention centre. Most have been held on the islands for nearly three years.


The United Nations has found that Australia’s immigration detention regime breaches international law, amounting to arbitrary and indefinite detention, and that men, women and children are held in violent and dangerous conditions.

Zeige Kommentare: ausgeklappt | moderiert

Wilson Security has joined lead contractor Ferrovial in publicly stating they will not tender for future contacts to operate the abusive camps on Nauru and Manus, once their current agreements run out in October 2017.

Thousands of GetUp members demanded businesses like Wilson Security stop making a profit from abuse, and now it seems the government won't have a single corporation willing to operate its detention regime.

Without corporate involvement in their camps, the government's policy of offshore detention is falling apart.

It's the perfect moment to increase visible, public pressure on the g overnment to bring the people unlawfully detained in the offshore camps to safety in Australia.

Wilson Security's announcement could be the critical blow. You can tweet Malcolm Turnbull so that twitter is alight with calls to #BringThemHere?

Don't have Twitter? Click here to send an email to the Immigration Minister instead.

Wilson Security's announcement follows enormous community backlash to the explosive Nauru Files leaks, including huge nationwide rallies last weekend. But that's not where this campaign started.

A year ago yesterday, GetUp members began to work together on a new strategy targeting corporations, rather than parliamentarians, called No Business in Abuse.

It was based on the theory that the strength of the Australian public, standing united as investors and consumers against corporations profiting from human suffering, could knock the legs out from under the system of offshore detention.

Over the last year, GetUp members petitioned more than 80 local councils to stop doing business in abuse, calling on them to refuse to associate with companies like Wilson Security.

And today is proof that people power has fundamentally changed the way corporations see the offshore camps. Or as Wilson Security put it in their press release, it's "not in line with [their] long term strategic priorities."1

Pressure is mounting every day on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Immigration Minister Peter Dutton. From the community, from policy experts, lawyers and health professionals.

Now we need to keep that pressure up and demand that the government bring the women, men and children in the untenable and abusive offshore camps here to safety in Australia.