Human rights abuses by companies involved in the detention of asylum seekers on Manus Island were once again under the spotlight at the United Nations.
UK NGO Rights and Accountability in Development (RAID) gave a blistering critique at a United Nations Human Rights Council panel in Geneva yesterday of the serious human rights abuses at the Centre by companies like G4S Australia and, more recently, Spanish multinational Ferrovial.
RAID highlighted in particular the shocking violence committed by G4S security guards and other contractors on Manus Island in 2014, which resulted in the death of Iranian asylum seeker Reza Berati and serious injuries to many others. The incident was the subject of a joint complaint by RAID and the Human Rights Law Centre to Australia’s OECD National Contact Point and has subsequently become the subject of a major class action brought by Slater & Gordon, which will start in Victoria’s Supreme Court on 15th May.
Keren Adams, a Director of Legal Advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre commented that the legal, financial and reputational consequences that companies like G4S Australia are facing should serve as a warning to any other companies thinking about tendering to run the Centres:
“As was highlighted at the United Nations yesterday, G4S Australia, Ferrovial and other companies involved in Australia’s detention regime are now facing the music for their complicity in a litany of abuses. They are being pursued in the courts, in their boardrooms, and a whole range of public forums.”
“Other companies considering following in their footsteps would do well to think twice before going down the dark path of profiting from abuse”.
Spanish company Ferrovial currently runs the Centre, but after facing heavy public criticism for its involvement, confirmed that it will not retender for the contract beyond its current contract’s expiry in October 2017. The Australian government is expected to issue a call for new service providers soon.
Ms Adams said there was no ethical way for companies to be involved in Australia’s off-shore processing regime: “The Manus Island centre is inherently unlawful, cruel and unsafe, as was demonstrated yet again by the shootings there last week. It should immediately be closed and the men detained there brought to Australia”.
Last year, the Human Rights Law Centre released a joint report ‘Association with Abuse’ which called on Ferrovial’s financial backers to take immediate action and end their association with the Centres.