Who is held accountable for these breaches? Who wrote the words of the contract allowing no public scrutiny? And most importantly, something rarely asked by our media, why are private companies making a profit from managing human misery?
The full extent of despair and unrest inside the immigration detention network has been revealed, with documents showing 1507 detainees hospitalised in the first six months of this year, including 72 psychiatric hospital admissions, and 213 treated for physical injuries resulting from self-harm.
International Health and Medical Services, the network’s health provider, treated 723 detainees for ”voluntary starvation” during that period. Police, meanwhile, were notified 264 times of possible criminal behaviour.
A parliamentary inquiry into the immigration detention network, instigated by the opposition and Greens, has begun to lift the veil on the secretive private contractor, SERCO, that runs Australia’s detention centres.
The Immigration Department has supplied the inquiry with hundreds of pages of data, including the time and nature of every recorded incident inside the 19 detention centres. But SERCO is refusing to state how many staff it employs at each centre, claiming this is sensitive.
The Immigration Department told a hearing last night that SERCO wasn’t required to meet any staff-to-detainee ratios under its contract. The department secretary, Andrew Metcalfe, said SERCO was refusing to disclose its staffing ratios to the inquiry because it was concerned detainees would find out.
SERCO had been fined by the department every month in 2010-11 for failing to meet contract goals, the hearing was told.
Mr Metcalfe told the hearing that rising unrest, self harm and suicide were unfortunate and sad, but ”defy simple solutions”.
Serco has reported 871 incidents of inappropriate behaviour towards its staff, and 700 incidents of inappropriate behaviour between detainees. There have been 5 substantiated complaints against SERCO staff – but no staff dismissed as a result.