The problem isn’t Paladin, it’s offshore detention

The problem isn’t Paladin, it’s offshore detention

Paying another company to run the Australian Government’s offshore detention centre on Manus Island will not end the suffering of the men still trapped on the remote island, the Human Rights Law Centre said today in response to reports the Morrison Government will terminate Paladin’s contract once another company is appointed.

In recent weeks, the Australian Government had come under pressure both domestically and from the PNG Government to end its relationship with Paladin, which was awarded the $423 million contract through a closed tender process in 2017. The company is receiving the equivalent of $1600 per refugee per day to run the detention centre, despite having no relevant track record and no experience with dealing with vulnerable and traumatised people.

Keren Adams, a Legal Director at the Human Rights Law Centre, said the Government’s decision to award Paladin the contract in the first place had been a sign of desperation, as mainstream providers distanced themselves from the abject cruelty of offshore detention.

“We’re glad to hear that Paladin are going, but frankly that’s not going change a thing for the men still held in limbo on Manus who, after almost six years of grotesque and needless suffering, are now at breaking point.”

“Whether you are talking about the world’s largest security provider or a two-bit company registered to a shack on Kangaroo Island, every single company that has taken on these toxic contracts has been implicated in abuses. That’s the very nature of the system.”

Investigations by the Australian Financial Review have revealed multiple instances of alleged wrongdoing by Paladin, ranging from accusations of money-laundering and company directors pocketing millions while paying local guards just $1.50 per hour, to recent reports that guards linked to the company were responsible for injuring four people after firing live ammunition into a crowd in Port Moresby.

“There is an unprecedented degree of impunity for companies involved in running this cruel and punitive system, which has led not just to misconduct, but to serious crimes being swept under the carpet. Offshore detention is designed to make people suffer. And these lucrative contracts incentivise companies to prolong that suffering for as long as possible.”

Ms Adams said that the only way to end corporate wrongdoing was to end offshore detention and immediately bring the men and women still held on Manus and Nauru to safety in Australia.

“Twelve people have died, families have been separated and, up until early this year, children were wasting away in mouldy tents and attempting suicide. It is painfully clear that there is simply no ethical way for any company or government to do this work,” Ms Adams added.

Media contact:

Michelle Bennett, Communications Director, Human Rights Law Centre, 0419 100 519