Serco must face the music and accountability forced upon it

The role of British multinational Serco in Australia is a murky affair. How much money is the federal government giving them? Can the media and general public get reliable answers from them? Hardly.

Yesterday’s Australian editorial touched on this (but of course didn’t acknowledge that inserting the profit motive into detention centres distorts the system):

Some criticism has focused on Serco, the private operators of detention facilities, but whether they are run by the public or private sector, the government is responsible for ensuring the centres deliver the appropriate security, care and safety for detainees, workers and visitors.

The feature story in this week’s Green Left Weekly details these issues in a far deeper way:

Before visiting the Curtin detention centre in far-north Western Australia in early April as part of a solidarity convoy, Victoria Martin-Iverson told Green Left Weekly she knew the conditions would be grim.

“This is a humanitarian and psychiatric crisis,” she said. “We charge a private company with the responsibility of delivering services to people in detention, but they cut costs every way and anyway they can.

“It makes a profit off the misery of asylum seekers, off the illegal imprisonment of people who have not committed or been charged with a crime.”

When a private corporation is concentrating on profit, it will always cut costs and staffing, and will suppress vital information to avoid fines and maintain its contract. It is fundamentally wrong to outsource the detention of vulnerable people who seek and need protection.

If the government refuses to investigate, it is harder for the public to know what is taking place and how to fight it.

But refugees know, and they are trying very hard to tell the public.