Who really run immigration detention in Australia? Unaccountable Serco, that’s who

The kind of story that is happening every day around the country:

Three asylum seekers were denied appointments at Broome Hospital and returned to Curtin Detention Centre after speaking to a member of the public in the waiting room.

The news comes amid reports that seven asylum seekers were flown to Christmas Island from Curtin last night due to increased tensions at the remote facility, 40km from Derby in the Kimberley.

Broome nurse Jacqueline Rehmani, 32, a long-time refugee supporter, said she walked into the reception yesterday morning and realised that the men, watched over by four Serco guards, were asylum seekers.

“I said ”˜hello how are you’ in Farsi and then I proceeded to sit down next to them to ascertain whether they could speak English,” she said.

She said a Serco guard warned her not to speak to the men.

“I said ”˜well, it’s a public place – I can talk to people I want to talk to’ and they became very angry at that,” she said.

Ms Rehmani said the men, aged in their 20s and 30s, told her they had been at Curtin for up to 13 months and two were awaiting a review to determine their refugee status.

She gave the men a piece of paper and asked them to write down their names and boat numbers and one man obliged.

“I went to hand it to the next asylum seeker and he shook his head and told me ”˜the officer has said I’m not allowed to give you my name”, she said.

“His legs were shaking because the officers were being so intimidating and writing down everything we said ”¦ they got increasingly angry.”

Ms Rehmani said one guard rang Curtin Detention Centre and told the others to put the detainees back in the bus.

The appointments were cancelled.

Ms Rehmani said that when she went outside, police stopped her from re-entering and told her it was illegal for her to speak to the asylum seekers, she said.

She said she was warned she could be issued with a move-on notice for disturbing the peace, but as the Serco officers were leaving there was no longer an issue: “The police left and I went back and had my appointment,” she said.

Broome Police Sen Const Mike Burger confirmed officers had spoken to both parties but decided no further action was necessary.

Ms Rehmani said to cancel detainees’ appointments just because a member of the public said “hello, how are you” was “appalling”.

“They probably waited months to get an appointment, because specialists only come to Broome once every six months,” she said.

Refugee Action Coalition spokesman Ian Rintoul said the incident showed Serco’s “contemptuous attitude” and complete disregard for detainees’ health and well-being.

“Serco has shown yet again that they are not fit to have responsibility for the care of vulnerable people,” he said.

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

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