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Urgent reviews needed for immigration detention centre contracts

Media Release
Sarah Hanson-Young 10 Nov 2011

Persistent problems within detention centres such as detainees harming themselves, staff who lack adequate qualifications and abysmal mental health services are compelling reasons why the Immigration Minister must urgently review the operating contracts, the Australian Greens said today.

"The Greens have long argued that contracting to a private company is an inappropriate way to run the detention network in the first place," Greens' immigration spokesperson, Sen. Sarah Hanson-Young, said today.

"But it's even more concerning that the guards who are supposed to care for vulnerable and mentally-ill people have qualifications less than those of nightclub bouncers.

"When the government entered into its contract with Serco there were fewer people in detention. Now, on a daily basis, people attempt suicide or harm themselves and that is a tragedy and our national shame.

"International Health and Medical Services' contract also needs revision because that company has admitted it cannot cope with increasing numbers of highly-stressed detainees being given psychotropic medication for showing torture and trauma symptoms.

"The Australian public is spending $1 billion on the Serco contract, yet it is not clear that the company properly trains its staff to manage traumatised people, nor that DIAC sufficiently scrutinises Serco's practices and effectively penalises breaches in standards of care.

"Serco's protocols appear to place more importance on keeping journalists out of detention centres than the welfare of detainees - so ordinary Australians can't see the consequences of indefinitely warehousing fragile, desperate people.

"For these reasons and more, the Serco and IHMS contracts should be urgently reviewed and revised before any areas of their operations are expanded."

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