Outsourcing its responsibility to protect citizens and shield vulnerable arrivals from harm has become a matter of dark habit for Australian governments. Binoy Kampmark reports.
Nauru Regional Processing Centre
Iranian-Kurdish journalist and refugee Behrouz Boochani has been detained on Manus Island for almost five years. The theme of home in the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre’s campaign to Change the Policy was inspired by Behrouz, whose vision of home is “humanity”.
Around 500 refugees on Nauru have signed a petition to Australian Border Force demanding a timetable for refugee resettlement, to be immediately resettled in Australia pending any further resettlement options and to reunite families that have been separated.
About 130 refugees will fly to the US in the next month: 40 refugees flew from Port Moresby on January 23 and the remaining 90 refugees from Nauru are scheduled to fly in February.
The federal government has awarded a lucrative contract running refugee facilities on Nauru to a Queensland-based engineering firm, despite the company having no experience in providing refugee services.
Canstruct International Pty Ltd has won the $8 million contract to run “garrison and welfare services” from November 1.
The move has been slammed by human rights groups.
Amnesty International accused Canstruct of taking up a “toxic contract” that profits from the abuse of asylum seekers.
The Refugee Action Collective organised a public meeting on November 7, addressed by Harry Wicks, who had worked as a carpenter at the Nauru detention centre and Bernard, a Malaysian who has done volunteer work at refugee camps in Malaysia.
Wicks said that Nauru, a small island with a population of 10,000 people, has a 90% unemployment rate.
Refugee supporters rallied in Sydney on October 5 in solidarity with asylum seekers and refugees on Nauru who held their 200th consecutive day of protest against their illegal detention that day.
Speakers included Danielle Austin, a former nurse on Christmas Island and convener of Mums for Refugees; Dr Barri Phatarfod, a convener of Doctors4Refugees; and Judith Reen, a former teacher on Nauru.
Connect Settlement Services, the company that provides welfare services for refugees and asylum seekers on Nauru, has told the federal government it will not re-apply when its contract lapses in December.
The company, which has about 100 staff on the island, provides health and education services and helps refugees look for work in the Nauru community.
Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act — Australia’s federal hate speech law — has tended to dominate public debate about free speech for the past few years. This has meant other important laws that restrict free speech in broad ways are being overlooked.
While the 18C debate has raged, important new restrictions on freedom of speech have been introduced in Australia. These have flown much further under the radar. These restrictions should concern us, because they have a wide-ranging impact on the freedom of speech that is essential to democratic deliberation.
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