Amnesty warns companies that profit from torture

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Human rights organisation Amnesty International released a report yesterday detailing how Spanish multinational Ferrovial and its Australian subsidiary, Broadspectrum (formerly Transfield), are reaping vast profits from Australia’s cruel, secretive and deliberately abusive refugee processing system on Nauru.

Broadspectrum’s $2.5 billion contract with the Federal Government ends in October and Amnesty is warning other firms about the potential damage to their reputation, as well as the legal troubles they may encounter, if they choose to bid for the contract.

In February this year, 17 international criminal law and refugee law academics submitted a case for investigation by the International Criminal Court. It outlined the potential legal liability of Australian officials and company directors for crimes against humanity on Nauru and Manus Island.

Amnesty International’s latest report, Treasure I$land, states that any company looking to provide offshore processing services at Manus Island or Nauru will be complicit in an intentionally and inherently abusive and cruel system in direct contravention of their human rights obligations.

“The Australian Government has [not only] created an island of despair for refugees and people seeking asylum on Nauru, but [also] an island of profit for companies making millions of dollars from a system so deliberately and inherently cruel and abusive it amounts to torture,” said Lucy Graham, Amnesty International’s Researcher on Business and Human Rights.

“By knowingly enabling the continuation of this system, which is specifically designed to cause suffering and deter people from travelling to Australia by boat to seek asylum, Broadspectrum and Ferrovial are unequivocally complicit in this abuse.

“The regime of cruelty at the Refugee Processing Centre on Nauru leaves a stain that no responsible company would want on its conscience or reputation.”

Ferrovial has previously stated that it would not bid for the new contracts when they became available in October, as “they are not part of its strategic business portfolio”.

Along with Ferrovial’s decision not to seek a renewal of its contract, medical services provider International Health and Medical Services (IHMS) was expelled from Manus Island last week, after the PNG government ruled that it was not licensed to practice. It has been replaced by a PNG company, which is providing only basic and emergency medical care.

Opinion: No company should profit from abuse

The Government may be deaf to the calls for closing the offshore detention camps, but businesses are certainly starting to listen, now that they can see the potential for damage to their bottom line.

Transfield Services signalled that running the camps had affected its reputation when it underwent a name change to Broadspectrum. Once Spanish company Ferrovial acquired the Australian business, it made it clear it wanted no part in any control over the camps once the current contract ended.

Once Ferrovial made this announcement, Wilson Security quickly followed suit, saying it would no longer seek to provide security services for the centres beyond its current contract, which ends in October. It also said it had no plans to tender for any further offshore detention services.

These businesses started to take notice after the successful ‘No Business In Abuse’ campaign. That campaign, organised by Get-Up, prompted supporters to email their local councils and request that Broadspectrum not be considered for upcoming contracts.

This latest Amnesty International report should serve as a dire warning for any company thinking about bidding for these services once the Government puts them up for tender.

Profiting from inhumane detention centres for asylum seekers comes at a cost, both to your reputation and your bottom line.

The great news is that grass-roots campaigns for change seem to have driven these companies to address the way they approach these contracts and, while the Government may not be willing to listen, if enough people band together and take action, at least companies will act to protect their shareholders.

The fact that so many companies are seeking to distance themselves from the camps, could force the Government to finally close the camps in October.

Do you think the Government should close the offshore refugee processing centres at Manus Island and Nauru? How would you like to see the situation resolved?

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Written by Ben



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