Serco and Australian government see no evil, hear no evil

The ever-increasing growth of Serco in Australia is occurring while the company faces intense scrutiny over its record managing refugees in immigration. This story on ABC TV Lateline highlights the problems. I’m having a growing number of former and current Serco staff approaching me and wanting to speak about what they’re seeing in Australia’s dysfunctional detention centres. Stay tuned:

TONY JONES, PRESENTER: The immigration centre on Christmas Island was labelled a factory for mental illness after overcrowding and frustration led to a series of riots and disturbances.

Tonight, we’re bringing you a new perspective from inside the detention centre.

A guard has broken ranks with the Government and Serco, the secretive company that runs the centre, to give Lateline a disturbing account of working life inside the facility.

We’ve agreed to protect his identity because he fears for his job.

His language is colourful, at times even offensive, but his story adds to a sense of urgency that there are serious problems in the way Australia is managing the flow of asylum seekers.

Peter Lloyd reports.

ANONYMOUS GUARD: I thought I was going to go up there and change the world. You go up there – it’s an eye-opener, it’s just an eye-opener.

PETER LLOYD, REPORTER: When trouble breaks out on Christmas Island, security is the first line of defence, but according to at least one guard, when there’s an average of one officer for every hundred detainees, the mayhem is hard to contain.

ANONYMOUS GUARD: First off you go “Shit!” Then you just go and try and help the people who are not involved get out of the way, go to their rooms. And then if it’s out of control you just leave the scene to let them go.

PETER LLOYD: Every man for himself?

ANONYMOUS GUARD: Yeah, but you help your mates out first if anyone’s hurt or in trouble, you go and grab them, protect them, just drag everyone out and just let them go. We’re paying for it all and these monkeys are going, ripping everything apart. It’s just a wanted waste.

PETER LLOYD: He is a self-confessed angry man, angry at some asylum seekers and Serco, the company that runs the Christmas Island detention centre on behalf of the Federal Government.

ANONYMOUS GUARD: You’re shadowed for week and in you go. This is you, this is what you got to do, go for it. And you’re learning as you go. It’ll make you a stronger person or it’d turn you into a puddle.

PETER LLOYD: What sort of preparation and training did you get for this job?

ANONYMOUS GUARD: To put it bluntly: jack shit.

PETER LLOYD: He says he was hired to guard the fence line, but instead found himself working directly with asylum seekers and their desperate acts of self-harm.

ANONYMOUS GUARD: Slashings, hangings – or one hanging.

PETER LLOYD: What’s that like to witness?

ANONYMOUS GUARD: Messy. Blood getting – squirting everywhere. It’s not a nice feeling.

PETER LLOYD: What do you do?

ANONYMOUS GUARD: Just calm them down, wrap them up, shoof them off for medical, then clean up the mess.

PETER LLOYD: What happens to the paperwork when there is trouble?

ANONYMOUS GUARD: Your hands are tied. You might get unruly detainee, and Immigration will say, “Oh, no, you can’t do him, you can’t touch him.” Even if he pushes you or shoves you, you just look at him. If you write him up, sometimes he goes into Bin 13. And that’s it.

PETER LLOYD: On Christmas Island, “Bin 13” is code for the document shredder. Among guards it’s popularly believed that Serco keeps the truth about what happens from the Government.