So, finally, acknowledgement that Serco simply can’t manage the problems in Australia

Here’s a rare a piece in the Australian mainstream media that actually discusses the role of British multinational Serco, its dysfunctional relationship with the Immigration Department and neither being able to handle the influx of a few thousand refugees:

The case of nine-year-old Iranian orphan Seena’s return to Christmas Island highlights just how dysfunctional our mandatory detention system has become.

Tensions between Afghan youths and Iranian Kurds, mainly families and younger children, had been building for days at Darwin’s Airport Lodge, a makeshift immigration detention centre housing more than 400 vulnerable asylum seekers.

The Afghans, some barely literate and from a basket-case nation consumed by civil war, were deeply resented by the Kurds who viewed them as economic refugees.

To compound the situation, the Afghans had little sense of what the Kurds regarded as the appropriate boundaries between men and women and no knowledge of Australian law.

When one of the Afghans made what was described as, an ”unwelcome physical approach” to a 14-year-old Kurdish girl, the result was inevitable and explosive.

Over two days late last week the Afghans and Kurds went at each other on and off for two days with anything they could get their hands on – kitchen knives, iron bars and other makeshift weapons.

In what was later described as the worst bout of sustained violence in a mainland detention centre since the riots at Woomera and Curtin almost 10 years ago, authorities were initially powerless.

According to witnesses interviewed by The Age, the private security company hired to run the detention centre, Serco, quickly lost control of the situation.

”I was amazed,” one witness says. ”Serco had no idea. They were outnumbered, but they were totally unprepared and clueless.”

The incident, which led to blame-shifting between Serco and Immigration Department officials, raises yet again serious questions about the nation’s massively overcrowded and sparsely resourced system of mandatory detention – a system that now holds well over 6000 detainees and could be forced to accommodate many more by the end of the year if the boats from Indonesia keep coming.

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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