Shameful (via Paige Taylor in The Australian):
It will cost about $29 million over the next 20 months for independent observers to watch over young, unaccompanied asylum-seekers in Australia’s immigration detention camps.
The figure is the nominal amount of a new contract between the Department of Immigration and Citizenship and the US-linked Maximus Solutions to provide “care and support” to teenage asylum-seekers who arrive by boat without a parent or a guardian.
There are currently 168 such teens, mostly boys, living under guard in “alternative places of detention” at Darwin airport, on Christmas Island and at a camp in the West Australian northern goldfields town of Leonora.
In the costly context of Australia’s immigration detention network, the department finds the $29m contract represents good value.
It is a tiny sliver of the size of the five-year contract between the Immigration Department and Serco for the management of Australia’s immigration detention centres on Christmas Island and the mainland; in July last year, that agreement, due to expire in 2014, was valued at $1,032,827,276.
The contract is one of the measures the federal government has in place to meet its obligations towards unaccompanied minors.
“As a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Australian government takes its obligations towards unaccompanied minors very seriously,” the Immigration Department states on its website.
Immigration Minister Chris Bowen is the legal guardian of all unaccompanied minors seeking asylum in Australia; as of last Friday, there were a total of 310 — almost half, 142, had been placed in community housing under the care of the Red Cross while the rest were still in detention. “The contract is for care and support services to unaccompanied minors in the detention network,” a spokesman for the department said yesterday.
“It is also for ‘independent observer’ services on Christmas Island and in mainland Australia.”
Since 2009, the contract has been held by Australian not-for-profit organisation Life Without Barriers.