Committee views and recommendations
This committee was established in the wake of the Forgotten Children report
and the Moss Review, reflecting the belief of the Senate that the evidence
uncovered in those reports was important but not complete, and that the
situation at the Regional Processing Centre (RPC) in Nauru, as well as the implementation
of the findings and recommendations of the Moss Review, required further
The inquiry conducted by this committee has vindicated that assessment.
Despite its short timeframe, the committee has been inundated with evidence
from a range of stakeholders in the RPC, including contractors and their
current and former staff, and asylum seekers themselves. This evidence has
served to corroborate the findings of the Moss Review, but has also gone beyond
it, to raise a range of issues of concern in relation to the conditions and circumstances
prevailing at the RPC, and the adequacy of efforts by the Australian Government
to fulfil its responsibilities to the people detained there.
The committee has, wherever possible, published the submissions and
evidence given to it, to enable further scrutiny by relevant authorities and
transparency to the public. However, the committee has found it necessary to
accept a certain amount of the evidence received on a confidential basis,
mostly in order to protect the privacy of individuals. That information has
informed, but is not directly reflected in, this report.
Throughout this inquiry the committee has also been conscious of the convention
that parliamentary committees generally refrain from inquiring into matters
which may prejudice ongoing law enforcement investigations or legal actions. The
committee sought briefing from relevant authorities in determining its
boundaries in that regard. At the same time, given the lack of transparency
around events and circumstances at the RPC, and a lack of confidence expressed
by many in the functioning of official systems to bring to light and resolve
issues related to the RPC, the committee has given appropriate weight to the strong
public interest in the disclosure of these matters in conducting its inquiry.
The volume, complexity and sensitivity of the evidence gathered during
this inquiry is so great that the committee has been unable, within the time
and resources at its disposal, to forensically examine all the specific claims
and allegations made. Moreover, a Senate committee is not a law enforcement or
judicial body, and it is not within the realm of this committee to verify or to
resolve individual cases. Rather, the inquiry and this report have focused on
the key systemic issues arising from the evidence, and the changes which this
committee considers must be made by the Commonwealth government and its relevant
agencies in relation to conditions and circumstances at the RPC.
Some of those who engaged with the inquiry expressed the strong view
that offshore processing of asylum seekers in its entirety, or the operation of
the RPC in Nauru in particular, was inherently condemnable, and that the
committee should recommend that the RPC be closed. Examination of the merits of
the broader policy of offshore processing was not part of the terms of
reference of this committee, and as such, the committee has formulated its
findings and recommendations on the assumption of the continued existence of
The committee is nevertheless of the overall view that the present
conditions and circumstances at the Regional Processing Centre on Nauru are not
adequate, appropriate or safe for the asylum seekers detained there. The
committee believes that the Commonwealth must accept ultimate responsibility
for conditions at the Centre, commit to a clear plan for its future as part of
genuine regional arrangements for dealing with irregular migration, and make
tangible improvements to living conditions. The committee believes there is a
need for the government, in its oversight of the RPC, to adjust the relative
prioritisation between enforcing a security environment and providing a decent
quality of life for asylum seekers, and take measures to create a significantly
better environment for these persons. The committee further regards increased
transparency and accountability in relation to the RPC, including independent
oversight of the conduct of service providers and staff, to be essential.
The committee emphasises that the very serious allegations of misconduct
and abuse that were cited in the Moss Review, and those that have emerged
during this inquiry, must be credibly and transparently investigated and dealt
with by competent authorities, ensuring full respect for human rights and
natural justice. The Government of Australia cannot and must not seek to
abdicate that responsibility to another nation, nor to contracted entities.
The committee is deeply concerned that without this inquiry, the
allegations heard and evidence received would not have been uncovered. There
appears to be no other pathway for those affected by what they have seen and
experienced in the Regional Processing Centre on Nauru to disclose allegations
of mistreatment, abuse or to make complaints. The department has been unaware
of serious acts of misconduct by staff of contractors, as those contractors
have not adequately fulfilled their reporting obligations. The committee
believes that no guarantee can be given by the department that any aspect of
the RPC is run well, and that no guarantee of transparency and accountability
can be given until significant changes are made and accountability systems are
put in place.
Australia created the Regional Processing Centre in Nauru. It is
Australia's responsibility and in its present form, it is insupportable. This
committee is strongly of the view that Australia must take a number of actions
to improve significantly the conditions and circumstances at the RPC. The
committee's specific recommendations in this regard are set out below.
Provision of information to the
The committee wishes to record its concern that in the conduct of the
inquiry it was not afforded full and transparent access to the information it
requested from key stakeholders in relation to the management of the RPC. The
committee remains of the view that the government in particular has sought to
avoid the full accountability to which the Senate is entitled.
The committee wrote to Secretary of the Department of Immigration and
Border Protection on 10 July 2015 to register its concern about the
department's answers to a number of questions on notice asked by the committee.
In some cases, the department declined to provide substantive responses on the
grounds that the matters involved 'government deliberations' or 'advice to
government', without fulfilling the requirement of Senate orders that it
specify the harm to the public interest that would be caused by disclosure of
the information to the committee. In other cases, the department sought to
avoid substantive responses by reference to matters as being the responsibility
of the Government of Nauru, or subject to consultation with the Government of
Nauru, although it seemed clear that the department should have had access to
information that could have been provided to the committee.
While the department did provide additional information to assist the
committee in response to the committee's letter of 10 July 2015, the committee wishes
to emphasise the importance of departments meeting their accountability
obligations to the Senate and its committees, including the requirement for
officials to provide full and accurate information to the parliament about the
factual and technical background to policies and their administration.
Wilson Security gave information to the committee regarding the
existence of footage of the riot of 19 July 2013 which, after questioning from
the committee, was shown to be untrue. However, in the month between the giving
of the evidence and the correction of the record, Wilson Security did not attempt
to provide the committee with accurate information. This issue is further
discussed below, but demonstrates the difficulty experienced by the committee
in inquiring into allegations of abuse.
Responsibilities of the Commonwealth
The committee accepts the evidence from a range of legal and human
rights experts that Australia holds obligations under international and
domestic law, as well as responsibilities under the MOU with Nauru, in relation
to asylum seekers at the RPC.
The committee agrees that the level of control exercised by the
Government of Australia over the RPC supports a strong argument that the primary
obligation rests with Australia under international law for protecting the
human rights of the asylum seekers, and for compliance with the Refugees
Convention. At a minimum, the committee is convinced that Australia holds joint
obligations with the Government of Nauru in that regard.
The committee endorses the recommendation made by the Senate Legal and
Constitutional Affairs References Committee in 2014 about the comparable
situation at the Manus Island RPC, that the Australian Government should 'acknowledge
its responsibility to respect, protect and fulfil the human rights of
individuals detained' at the RPC in Nauru.
The committee also notes the evidence received about Australia's responsibilities
to persons in immigration detention under domestic legislation and common law,
and the real possibility of future litigation in Australian courts in relation
to duty of care and workplace health and safety, should care not be taken to
ensure that suitable conditions are maintained for both contracted staff and
asylum seekers at the RPC.
In the committee's view, the Government of Australia's purported
reliance on the sovereignty and legal system of Nauru in the face of
allegations of human rights abuses and serious crimes at the RPC is a cynical and
unjustifiable attempt to avoid accountability for a situation created by this
The committee's view in this regard is strengthened by the evidence
received about the significant challenges, both logistical and political, under
which the law enforcement and justice systems of the Republic of Nauru are
currently operating. Given the small size and limited capacity of institutions
in Nauru, the present serious concerns about the state of the rule of law
there, and the absence of a comprehensive legal and policy framework for child
protection, the committee is of the view that Australia must assume greater
responsibility for ensuring that the rights of asylum seekers at the RPC are
protected and enforced to the standards required by Australian and
The committee recognises that under the terms of the arrangements in
place, certain matters are necessarily within the jurisdiction of the
Government of Nauru and its relevant authorities. That is, nonetheless, the
very reason why an MOU and a set of consultation measures are in place.
Australia needs to use these mechanisms to engage in robust dialogue, as
necessary, with the Government of Nauru toward greater adherence to the rule of
law. Australia also needs to take responsibility for ensuring provision of the
support and assistance necessary for Nauru's law and justice sector to meet the
standards of Australian and international law to which the asylum seekers that
Australia has placed in Nauru are legitimately entitled.
The committee recommends that, consistent with the terms of the
Memorandum of Understanding and related arrangements between the governments of
Australia and Nauru, Australia ensure that support and assistance is provided
to Nauru's police, judicial, prosecutorial and other law and justice entities
to the extent necessary to ensure that Nauru's justice system meets the
standards of accountability and probity required by Australian and
The 2012 expert report that recommended the reopening of the detention
facility on Nauru proposed it as a short-term measure, pending further
development of an integrated regional framework for processing asylum claims.
Almost three years on, the government has failed to make meaningful progress on
a genuine regional framework, and the RPC in Nauru and its inhabitants have
been left in limbo: in a facility without permanent infrastructure, enduring
long and uncertain processing times, and absent any clarity about the future of
the RPC or their own fate.
The committee considers that the government should intensify its efforts
to achieve a genuine regional framework for irregular migration and processing
of asylum seekers, within which the future of the RPC, in line with regional and
international norms, can be properly considered.
Meanwhile, the committee notes that the steps for a refugee status
determination are unknown, and is concerned at the very long duration of the
average stay in the RPC. The uncertainty of asylum seekers enduring an average
processing time of 402 days and a vacuum of information about their status and
future is not acceptable. The committee is of the view that there should be a
greater focus on transparency and communication of the steps involved in
processing claims, and an explanation given to asylum seekers as to why the
process is so lengthy. Australia should ensure that the necessary support is
provided to the Government of Nauru to ensure fair and comprehensive refugee status
determination processes to be undertaken within accountable, publicised
The committee recommends that the Government of Australia, in
consultation with the Government of Nauru, agree on and publicly commit to a
model timeframe for refugee status determinations, and that Australia provide
the Government of Nauru with the support necessary to achieve faster and more
predictable processing of claims.
The committee further recommends that asylum seekers be informed about
the steps being taken to process their claims, be regularly updated on the
progress of the claim, and that an explanation be provided to asylum seekers when
model timeframes are not met.
Management of contractors and staff
The high volume of evidence received in relation to the behaviour of
staff engaged at the RPC indicated to the committee that there was cause for
ongoing concern about the performance and accountability of Commonwealth contracted
service providers. While the contractors themselves and the department sought
to reassure the committee that the recruitment, training and management of
contractors was of an acceptable standard, the weight of evidence submitted to
this inquiry strongly suggested that there were significant problems.
Despite the likelihood of significant under-reporting of incidents and
concerns, which was remarked upon in the Moss Review and endorsed by witnesses
before this committee, the internal complaints mechanism managed by Transfield
Services recorded 725 complaints about service provider staff over a 14-month
period to April 2015.
The incidents and complaints recorded by Transfield since 2012 included some 45
allegations of child abuse and sexual assault.
The committee is very deeply concerned about a situation in which this level of
reported misconduct can occur and, at least until brought to light by the Moss
Review, apparently be accepted.
The committee considers that a system in which contractors are
essentially left to manage and report on complaints against their staff is
inadequate. The committee recognises that the department receives reporting and
is responsible for general oversight of its contractors, but given the pervasive
culture of secrecy which cloaks most of the department's activities in relation
to the Nauru RPC, the committee believes that a far greater level of scrutiny,
transparency and accountability is required.
The absence of a Wilson Security IT server system for six months in
2013-14 was extremely concerning to the committee, as was the acknowledgement
by Wilson Security that document storage during that time relied on 'people
saving things to their actual desktop computers'.
Wilson Security acknowledged that a document from this period of time and which
related to a staff member who allegedly instigated unauthorised surveillance of
a member of the committee has not been able to be located by Wilson Security.
This data loss appears to be indicative of larger problems around recordkeeping
and accountability. The committee believes that such a lengthy period of
disruption to the IT infrastructure is inadequate and that the duration of the
disruption was unacceptably long, with minimal assurance that other documents
have not been lost.
The evidence provided by Wilson Security representatives regarding the
recording of footage of the riot of 19 July 2013 was shown to be incorrect.
Wilson Security representatives initially denied the existence of footage and
told the committee that body-worn cameras were not in use during that time.
Footage which contradicted that statement was, however, provided to the media
and reported during the ABC's 7.30 program on 13 August 2015. At the
committee's public hearing on 20 August 2015, after the release of the footage,
Mr John Rogers, Executive General Manager, Wilson Security, acknowledged that
his earlier evidence was incorrect. The committee is concerned that this error
was not brought to the committee's attention earlier and was revealed only
during questioning. The committee was also concerned that a representative present
at the hearing who knew that the cameras were used during that time said he had
not heard the evidence being given. The footage appeared to show security
personnel planning to use unreasonable force against asylum seekers, and those
visible in the footage used derogatory language to refer to asylum seekers. The
footage revealed a workplace culture which is inconsistent with Wilson
Security's role to provide safety and security to asylum seekers within the
The giving of false or misleading evidence is a potential contempt of
the Senate, and the committee was extremely concerned to learn that no attempt
was made to advise them of the incorrect evidence in the month after it was
given. The serious nature of the allegations against Wilson Security personnel
and the significant investment of Australian taxpayers' funds require the
highest level of accountability. There appears to be a lack of transparency to the
Australian Parliament and the community. The performance of the Department of
Immigration and Border Protection has been called into question by their lack
of knowledge of serious incidents such as the existence of footage of the riot
in which security staff discuss asylum seekers in a disturbing manner, and the
existence of an audio file allegedly recording a security staff member
confessing to the fabrication of an allegation of assault against an asylum
seeker. The department's ignorance of such events demonstrates the limits of
Commonwealth control or oversight of the RPC on Nauru. The department
acknowledged that they had only been made aware of the existence of the audio
file on 20 August 2015, even though the audio file had been created by Wilson
Security in January 2015.
Evidence revealed to the committee during its inquiry was put to the
Department of Immigration and Border Protection for investigation and comment.
Although numerous allegations were made against staff of Wilson Security and
the head contract holder Transfield Services, responsibility ultimately rests
with the department. The committee believes that there must be a direct
relationship between the department and the security service provider in order
to facilitate stronger accountability and transparency, where at present the department
can only deal directly with Transfield Services. The department has effectively
outsourced its accountability to Transfield Services and through them, to Wilson
Security, with no penalty for non-compliance.
It appears to the committee that the Regional Processing Centre on Nauru
is not run well, nor are Wilson Security and Transfield Services properly accountable
to the Commonwealth despite the significant investment in their services. The
committee has found that the Department of Immigration and Border Protection does
not have full knowledge of incidents occurring on Nauru, owing to their
inability to scrutinise their contracted service providers. A representative of
the department acknowledged that 'the current contract does not provide as
strong an abatement regime as the proposed contract',
and told the committee that no financial abatements or penalties have been
triggered under the current Performance Management Framework.
The committee believes that the shortcomings of the current framework offer no
reassurance that the department is fully aware of events on Nauru.
The committee notes that the Commonwealth Ombudsman holds powers, constituted
as the Immigration Ombudsman, to scrutinise matters related to immigration
detention and processing, including offshore, and has visited the Nauru RPC in
that capacity. The Ombudsman is also able to scrutinise Commonwealth-contracted
service providers. The committee believes that using the Ombudsman to provide direct
oversight and scrutiny of complaints about the conduct of
Commonwealth-contracted staff at the RPC would provide a greater level of
transparency and integrity in the handling of complaints and allegations, and would
help increase the confidence of asylum seekers in the accountability of
contractors which is presently lacking.
The committee recommends that the Immigration Ombudsman undertake
independent external review of all complaints involving the conduct of
Australian-funded staff or contractors at the Regional Processing Centre, and
that the government ensure that the office of the Ombudsman is adequately
resourced to do so.
The committee further recommends that the Ombudsman report to parliament
on an annual basis on the number and nature of the complaints received and the
outcomes of the Ombudsman's assessment of them.
The committee recommends that briefing be required to be provided to all
asylum seekers on their rights to lodge complaints with independent bodies such
as the Immigration Ombudsman, the Australian Human Rights Commission and the
International Committee of the Red Cross, both generally and in specific
response to any complaints made.
Surveillance of a member of the
The committee draws attention to the particular incidence of the
allegedly unauthorised surveillance of a member of the committee by contractor
staff while in Nauru. The committee finds the government's and the department's
responses to this incident to have been contradictory and inadequate.
The committee regards this incident as providing an example of the
shortcomings in the professionalism of service provider staff on Nauru, but
also, importantly, in the effectiveness of Commonwealth oversight of the
performance of those providers. The fact that the incident was not reported to
the department, and that when it came to light the department accepted at face
value the contractors' advice that it had been dealt with and did not conduct
any further investigation or action, is of grave concern to the committee.
The committee observes that the lack of transparency regarding
operations at the RPC, the effective media blackout on it, and the culture of
secrecy which surrounds offshore processing, only serves to increase the risk
of wrongdoing and abuse, and contribute to fear among asylum seekers that
no-one will protect them, and that misconduct by staff will go unpunished. The
committee strongly believes that greater transparency is an important
prerequisite to improving accountability of all involved for the welfare and
safety of persons at the RPC.
The committee recommends that Australia increase the transparency of conditions
and operations at the Regional Processing Centre, including by ensuring the
provision of reasonable access, in negotiation with the Government of Nauru as
necessary, by the Australian Human Rights Commission and by the media.
and drug testing
The committee is concerned that,
despite the serious allegations made to this committee and elsewhere about
substance abuse and related misconduct by employees at the RPC, drug testing is
still not being conducted at the centre. The committee acknowledges the advice
from contractors that implementing on-site random drug testing presents
logistical challenges. However, such difficulties can not justify compromising
the safety of asylum seekers and others in the RPC. Moreover, the challenges
are essentially the same as those faced by contractors on mining and
construction work sites in remote parts of Australia, and the committee
contends that solutions can and must be found. This matter can not be consigned
to the 'too-hard basket': the department and its contractors must take the
necessary measures to ensure that asylum seekers are not under the control of
drunk or drug-affected staff at the RPC.
The committee recommends that the
Department of Immigration and Border Protection require, in its contracts with
service providers, that comprehensive drug and alcohol testing be conducted on
staff employed at the Regional Processing Centre on Nauru, including daily
random tests for both alcohol and drugs.
Costs and prioritisation of resources
The committee was struck by the difficulty it
encountered in obtaining access to straightforward information about the costs
Australian taxpayers are incurring to maintain the RPC on Nauru. While
this information was eventually provided by the department, the committee considers
there to be a lack of transparency and accountability surrounding the funding
of the RPC and related expenditure in Nauru. For example, the department's
annual Portfolio Budget Statement (PBS) conflates spending on regional
processing, providing no means to distinguish between funds spent on Manus
Island and Nauru. The committee also found it very difficult to assess the full
range of spending taking place in relation to asylum seeker processing in Nauru
between direct RPC and settlement costs, related assistance and support to the
Government of Nauru, and other Australian whole-of-government spending
including development assistance.
The committee notes that the costs it was able to obtain from the
department in relation to the processing of asylum seekers on Nauru are extraordinary.
As noted in chapter 1, the Australian taxpayer spent $415.6 million in the
first ten months of the 2014-15 financial year in capital and operating costs
for a facility that housed 677 asylum seekers as at 30 April 2015.
That is more than $1.3 million per day. That is $613,900 per asylum seeker in a
ten month period, or over $2,000 per asylum seeker per day. That amount does
not include costs relating to the settlement of refugees in Nauru, or any
related support to the Government of Nauru.
Given the significant investment of Australian taxpayers' money in the
management and operation of the RPC, the committee considers that a much higher
level of transparency should exist as a means of ensuring that taxpayers' money
is being spent responsibly and in the best interest of Australia.
The committee recommends that the Department of Immigration and Border
Protection provide full and disaggregated accounts in its Portfolio Budget
Statements, annual reports and other relevant reports to Parliament and to the
Australian public, of the expenditure associated with the Regional Processing
Centre on Nauru. This accounting should include detailing costs specific to the
Nauru RPC, as well as related support and assistance provided by the Australian
Government to the Republic of Nauru.
Public works and aid to Nauru
The committee is concerned that there is minimal oversight of expenditure
on Nauru, whether it is a public work or assistance to a foreign government. As
foreshadowed in its interim report, the committee believes that the department
should undertake an audit on all expenditure for the RPC on Nauru and
associated projects and provide an explanation as to why an exemption from
oversight by the Public Works Committee applies.
The committee is of the view that clarification is required as to what
expenditure associated with the RPC is classed as aid, given that there appears
to have been a significant investment of Australian taxpayers' money in the RPC
with no parliamentary oversight, including in the Estimates process.
The committee recommends that a full and disaggregated account of all works
conducted in association with the Regional Processing Centre to date be reported
by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection to the Senate.
The committee recommends that a clarification be provided to the Senate
by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection as to why exemptions on
the grounds of assistance to foreign governments apply to expenditure
associated with the Regional Processing Centre on Nauru.
The committee further recommends that all expenditure associated with
the Regional Processing Centre on Nauru, including expenditure considered to be
assistance to a foreign government, should be specifically reported to the
Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee before each estimates
Reprioritising resources: the open
The committee believes that the very large amount of Australian
taxpayers' money being spent on the RPC could and should be used more
appropriately to ensure that asylum seekers are housed in humane conditions. In
this regard, the committee observes that despite the employment of more than
800 security staff at the RPC, the department and its contractors appear to be
unable to maintain a safe environment for asylum seekers.
The committee considers that the emphasis on creating and maintaining a
high security environment is both unnecessary and counterproductive to the
wellbeing of the people housed within it. They are not criminals, and they do
not pose such a threat to the people of Nauru as to justify conditions of large
scale security and confinement.
The committee noted in particular the evidence received from a range of
submitters in relation to the relative advantages of an 'open centre' model
over a high security one. The committee commends the Australian and Nauruan governments
for their decision to move toward an open centre model, which commenced in February
The committee is of the view that an open centre model is a more humane and
potentially more effective means of processing asylum seeker claims offshore;
one that is likely to contribute to improving the mental health and wellbeing
of the asylum seekers, and reduce tensions within the RPC. Importantly, the
committee also endorses the view expressed by the Government of Nauru that open
centre arrangements will help to build better relations between the asylum
seeker and Nauruan communities, and serve as an important preparatory step in
the ongoing resettlement of refugees in the Nauruan community.
The committee recommends that the Australian Government continue to
review the operation of the Regional Processing Centre with a view to expanding
open centre arrangements. The committee recommends that the Regional Processing
Centre on Nauru move toward becoming a more open, lower security living
arrangement for all asylum seekers except where there is a compelling reason
for an asylum seeker to be accommodated more securely.
The committee recommends that any savings resulting from the
implementation of an open centre model be redirected toward improving the
living conditions of asylum seekers in the Regional Processing Centre, with a
focus on humane living arrangements, services and amenities, including improved
access to communications. The committee recommends that the Department of
Immigration and Border Protection report publicly and to the Senate within 12
months on progress in this regard.
Living conditions and provision of services
As noted in chapter 1, the 2012 Expert Panel recommended the reopening
of a processing centre on Nauru as a short term measure, while progress was
made toward the establishment of an integrated regional framework for the
processing of asylum seekers. Almost three years on, the committee observes
that the government has failed to secure agreement on a genuine regional
approach, and has also failed to articulate any clear plan for the medium to
long-term future of the RPC. Meanwhile the Centre continues to function with
asylum seekers stuck in rudimentary, temporary living conditions.
While the committee recognises that the fire at the RPC in June 2013
resulted in the destruction of some permanent infrastructure, the committee
considers that, two years on, the lack of commitment and clarity to rebuilding
and improving living conditions only heightens the frustrations that contribute
to continued tension and potential unrest. The committee believes that it is no
longer acceptable for the RPC in Nauru to exist in a half-life between
short-term stopgap and long-term home for several hundred people, including
The committee welcomed advice from Transfield Services that, in
collaboration with the department, some steps were being taken to make
improvements to accommodation facilities in response to the recommendations of
the Moss Review, including installation of air conditioning or fans, added
privacy screens and additional lighting.
The committee is nevertheless deeply concerned at the evidence provided
which suggests that standards of living for asylum seekers in the Regional
Processing Centre are unacceptably low in a range of areas, including exposure
to the elements, lack of privacy, poor hygiene and insufficient access to water
These matters are of concern in and of themselves, but the committee is
also cognisant of the connection drawn by many submitters, including health and
welfare workers with direct experience of the RPC, between the very poor living
conditions at the RPC and the high level of physical and mental health problems
experienced by the asylum seekers resident there.
The committee was concerned to hear that measures in place around the
provision of clothing were unnecessarily complex, and in particular, that
Transfield Services' policy around reporting stolen clothing was punitive and
harsh. The committee notes the current policy that a Wilson Security guard must
search the possessions of an asylum seeker if a report is made of stolen
clothing. The committee believes that such a response is unwarranted and
fosters an unhealthy living environment.
The committee recommends that the government commit to and publicly release
a medium to long term plan for the completion of permanent infrastructure at
the Regional Processing Centre on Nauru, including the construction of solid
accommodation structures, and for tangible improvements to amenities for asylum
seekers including lighting, water, toilets, air conditioning, cooking
facilities and communications.
The committee is convinced that welfare services must be provided by a
dedicated welfare service provider with the required experience and
accreditation to undertake such work. The committee recommends that a
non-government organisation be contracted directly by the Department of
Immigration and Border Protection to provide welfare services to all asylum
seekers within the Regional Processing Centre on Nauru.
As discussed in chapter 3, given that a significant investment of
Australian taxpayers' money has been made into the provision of services, the
evidence that mouldy or rotten food is provided is highly concerning. The
committee is concerned that instances of food poisoning and gastroenteritis
could be especially harmful to pregnant women, children and the elderly in the
Regional Processing Centre.
The committee considers that instances of food poisoning should be
reported to the provider of that service and that Transfield Services should
compile and monitor statistics concerning this. The committee believes that Transfield
Services should have been more forthcoming in its answers to questions
concerning instances of food poisoning and needs to be more transparent about
that issue. More broadly, the committee considers that there should be greater
integration of reporting and monitoring of health and illness that directly
relates to the provision of a service.
Protecting the safety of asylum seekers and responding to abuse
Based on the evidence received by this inquiry, the committee has
reached the conclusion that the RPC in Nauru is not a safe environment for asylum
seekers. This assessment is particularly acute in relation to women, children
and other vulnerable persons.
The committee is particularly disturbed by the evidence it has received
about abuse of children, traumatisation and mental illness among children, and
the impact of the persistent, indefinite detention of children in the poor conditions
which prevail at the RPC. These children are not only denied a reasonable
approximation of childhood in the RPC, but often do not feel safe, and in fact often
are not safe. Their extreme vulnerability is further exacerbated by their
location in a country which lacks an adequate legal or policy framework for
The committee accepts the evidence provided by legal experts that the
continued transfer of children to Nauru, and detention of them in the RPC, is
likely to breach Australia's obligations under the Convention on the Rights of
The committee commends the government on the commitment it made in 2014
to remove children from immigration detention within Australia to the maximum
extent possible. That said, given the evidence put before this committee, the
committee fails to understand how, if immigration detention facilities in
Australia are regarded as inappropriate locations for children, the government
could possibly regard as acceptable their continued detention in the far worse
conditions of the Nauru RPC.
The committee concludes that the RPC Nauru is neither a safe nor an
appropriate environment for children and that they should no longer be held
The committee recommends that the government extend its current policy
commitment to remove children from immigration detention to the maximum extent
possible, to include the removal of children from the Regional Processing
Centre in Nauru. The government should develop a plan for the removal of
children from the Nauru RPC as soon as possible, with their families where they
have them, to appropriate arrangements in the community.
The committee considers provision of a sound education to be an absolute
priority for expenditure and management in relation to both asylum seeker
children in the RPC and refugee children settled in Nauru. Plans for the
education of asylum seeker and refugee children should be finalised and made
public as soon as possible by the Department of Immigration and Border
Protection and Save the Children Australia.
The committee further urges that teachers in Nauruan schools be provided
with specialist training in order to enable them to teach asylum seeker and
refugee students who have experienced trauma and may have special requirements.
The committee recommends that the Australian Government commit to and
publicly state a specific plan for addressing the educational needs of asylum
seeker and refugee children in Nauru.
The committee also notes its concern about evidence it received
indicating that there is no clear instruction relating to the filing of
incident reports for incidents involving asylum seekers that occur outside of
the RPC, including in schools. These guidelines should be clarified with all
contracted service providers to ensure that the safety of all asylum seekers,
including children, is protected and all incidents are appropriately reported
whether or not they occur within the physical boundaries of the RPC.
Responding to allegations of abuse
The Moss Review began a process of shedding light on serious allegations
of abuse and impropriety taking place at the RPC. The material received by this
committee has corroborated and added to that evidence, and has also provided
further indication that Mr Moss' suspicion of significant underreporting was well
placed. The committee is burdened by the weight of reporting received by it as
to possible cases of abuse, many of which it has not been able to make public.
The committee welcomes advice provided by the department that it is
working to reconcile the allegations of which it is aware, including
confidential allegations, to ensure that all cases are appropriately referred
for action. The committee acknowledges the secretary's observation that this is
not an easy task.
The committee regards it as imperative, however challenging, that every
effort be made to trace and follow up all serious allegations which have
emerged in the various inquiries in relation to the RPC. It will be difficult
and it will require a commitment of bureaucratic time and resources, but it is
The committee has throughout this inquiry been conscious of the
restrictions which would prevent direct use of the evidence it has received of
criminal conduct in future court proceedings.
The committee therefore urges those persons who have made submissions
containing allegations of criminal conduct to report them directly to the
Australian Federal Police (AFP) for appropriate follow up. While investigation
of alleged crimes on Nauru is the primary responsibility of the Nauru Police
Force (NPF), Australian Federal Police officers have been deployed to Nauru specifically
to assist the NPF with such investigations. The committee believes that this
connection should be used more actively to provide the assistance and assurance
of the AFP in cases where victims of crime may be reluctant to report it via
contractors on Nauru or directly to the NPF. The committee acknowledges that this
may require negotiation of expanded police assistance arrangements with the
Government of Nauru, and investment of increased resources by the AFP but
regards it as essential that this be done.
The committee recommends that the Department of Immigration and Border
Protection, in consultation with the Australian Federal Police, undertake a
full audit of all allegations of sexual abuse, child abuse and other criminal
conduct reported to the Australian Human Rights Commission, to the Moss Review
and to this inquiry, seeking the agreement of these bodies to share
confidential information where necessary to conduct such an audit.
The committee further recommends that, taking into account the need to
protect personal privacy, the minister should report to the Senate by the end
of December 2015, and every six months thereafter, setting out all allegations
of a criminal nature made in relation to the RPC, and the action taken by the
department and other relevant authorities in response.
The committee is gravely concerned that the culture of secrecy
surrounding operations at the RPC, the lack of access for asylum seekers to
information and support, and the lack of independent avenues of complaint and
oversight, create a dangerous likelihood that the present incidence and
apparent culture of abuse will continue and even intensify.
In addition to the recommendations made above relating to increased
support to the law enforcement and justice sector in Nauru, and to the
independent review of complaints by the Immigration Ombudsman, the committee
believes that increased transparency of reporting of serious allegations is
The committee believes that the Regional Processing Centre on Nauru
should be made subject to mandatory reporting requirements for serious crimes
including sexual and other physical assault, and crimes against children,
comparable with the requirements that apply under various legislative
provisions within Australia. This can be achieved, at least in part, through
Australian Commonwealth legislation with extraterritorial application.
The committee considers that such legislation should require all persons
who believe on reasonable grounds that such a crime has been committed against
an asylum seeker in the RPC to report it. It should ensure that the alleged
offender (or employer of the offender) is not the only recipient of the report,
and should include proportionate penalties for non-compliance.
The committee recommends that legislation be passed by the Australian Parliament
requiring the mandatory reporting of any reasonably suspected unlawful sexual
contact, sexual harassment, unreasonable use of force or other assault perpetrated
against asylum seekers at the Regional Processing Centres, under similar terms
as the mandatory reporting provisions contained in existing Commonwealth, state
and territory laws.
Such legislation should require that the reporting is made to the
Department of Immigration and Border Protection and the Australian Federal Police,
as well as any relevant state, territory or foreign police force and, where the
matter relates to a child, child protection authorities in any relevant
jurisdictions. The legislation should utilise Category C or D extraterritorial
jurisdiction to apply in Nauru, and impose penalties for noncompliance
comparable with those which apply in existing legislation within Australia.
The committee reiterates its concern that without its inquiry, evidence of
abuse received by the committee may not have been uncovered. Without the safety
net provided by the Australian Senate, it is difficult to see how further
allegations can be adequately dealt with as reliable options for reporting
allegations and having them properly investigated seem to be limited at the
Given the committee's concerns about the level of accountability and
transparency that currently applies to the operation of the regional processing
centre in the Republic of Nauru, the committee recommends that the following
matter be referred to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee
for inquiry and report by 31 December 2016:
- conditions and treatment of asylum
seekers and refugees at the Regional Processing Centre in the Republic of
- transparency and accountability
mechanisms that apply to the Regional Processing Centre in the Republic of
- implementation of recommendations of
the Moss Review in relation to the regional processing centre in the Republic
- the extent to which the Australian funded
regional processing centre in the Republic of Nauru is operating in compliance
with Australian and international legal obligations;
- the extent to which contracts
associated with the operation of offshore processing centres are:
delivering value for money consistent with the definition
contained in the Commonwealth procurement rules;
meeting the terms of their contracts;
delivering services which meet Australian standards; and
- any related matter.
Navigation: Previous Page | Contents | Next Page