Spanish corporate giant profits from torture of refugees
5 April 2017
Spanish corporate giant Ferrovial makes millions from Australia’s torture of refugees on Nauru
A major corporation with ties to New Zealand is making millions running the Australian Government’s refugee “processing” centre on Nauru, Amnesty International said today. The system amounts to torture of refugees and people seeking asylum.
A new briefing, ‘Treasure I$land’, exposes how Spanish multinational Ferrovial and its Australian subsidiary Broadspectrum are complicit in – and reaping vast profits from – Australia’s cruel refugee “processing” system.
“The question that must be asked is, ‘Do profits come before people?’ In this case, we’re talking about major profits...and major human rights abuse,” said Meg de Ronde, Amnesty International New Zealand’s Campaigns Director.
The part of Broadspectrum’s business that runs its operations on Nauru and Manus Island contributed AUD$1.646 billion in the 2016 financial year – an astonishing 45% of the company’s total operating revenues.
“The Australian Government has created an island of despair for refugees and people seeking asylum. But it’s an island of profit for the companies making billions from a system so cruel and abusive that it amounts to torture,” said de Ronde.
“By fulfilling contracts and providing services at these offshore detention centres, Ferrovial and Broadspectrum are complicit in the abuse of refugees, who deserve the very same things we all deserve – an education, a safe place to live and the ability to work, so they can build back their lives.”
Here in New Zealand, Auckland Transport has confirmed with Amnesty International that it holds “a number of contracts with Broadspectrum NZ”, while Transpower reportedly has a contract with Broadspectrum worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Additionally, Broadspectrum sub-contracts security at the “processing” centres to Wilson Security, part of the Wilson Group, which has operations in New Zealand that include Wilson Parking and First Security.
For running the day-to-day operations of the detention centres on Nauru and Manus Island over a three-and-a-half year period, Broadspectrum is being paid AUD$2.5 billion. The contract is due to end in October and Amnesty International is warning other firms against seeking to profit from torture.
One company that has previously bid for the contract to run Manus and Nauru is Serco. Serco was responsible for running Mount Eden prison in Auckland for four years until the government took back management in 2015 amid allegations of mismanagement. Serco is still contracted for prison operations at Auckland South Corrections Facility.
“Any company that agrees to provide services at these ‘processing’ centres will be complicit in an intentionally abusive system that is in direct contravention of its human rights responsibilities,” said de Ronde.
“The regime of cruelty on Nauru and Manus Island leaves a stain that no company would want on its reputation.”
A bleak existence
While Ferrovial and its subsidiary Broadspectrum turn in huge profits, those trapped on Nauru endure a bleak existence with little hope of respite. Broadspectrum is not only aware of the conditions faced by refugees and people seeking asylum on Nauru; in some cases, its employees and sub-contractors are directly responsible for neglect and abuse.
Looking at Broadspectrum, its sub-contractor Wilson Security and other staff members at the “processing” centre, the briefing documents 30 formal allegations of child abuse, 15 allegations of sexual assault or rape and four allegations relating to the exchange of sexual favours for contraband.
“We have a duty to the victims of human rights violations to name and shame any company that puts profit before decency by choosing to become involved in Australia’s abusive operations.”
Amnesty International is calling on the Australian Government to close the offshore detention centres and immediately bring all refugees and asylum seekers on Nauru, Manus and Christmas Island to Australia, or to cooperate with all rights-respecting offers of international assistance, including third country resettlement, and ensure that all those who were granted refugee status have the right to settle in Australia.
The organisation is also calling on Ferrovial to end its operations on Nauru and Manus Island as soon as possible.
A response from Broadspectrum and Ferrovial is included in the annex to the briefing.
Since 2012, Australia has operated intentionally harsh “offshore processing” systems on the Pacific island of Nauru and the island of Manus in Papua New Guinea. Refugees and asylum seekers are isolated in remote locations and subjected to cruel and degrading conditions, sometimes for years on end, simply because they have sought safety on Australian shores.
Refugees and asylum seekers at the Regional Processing Centre (RPC) on Nauru have faced physical attacks and sexual assault by some members of staff, without anyone being held properly accountable.
In the 2016 report Island of Despair: Australia's 'processing of refugees on Nauru Amnesty International found the Australian Government to be intentionally and systematically violating the rights of refugees and asylum seekers on Nauru. It concluded that the cruel and abusive conditions on Nauru amount to torture.
The RPCs on Nauru and Manus Island are run by Broadspectrum, which was bought by Ferrovial in April 2016.
The total value of the Australian Government’s contract with Broadspectrum is AUD$2.5 billion over three and a half years.
The profit margin in Broadspectrum’s Defence, Social and Property sector – which includes its Nauru and Manus Island operations – was 17.8% in its 2016 financial year, far higher than in its other business sectors such as Infrastructure (2.8%) and Resource and Industrial (1.6%).
Ferrovial’s revenues in its Nauru and Manus Island-related Service sector increased by 24.1% in 2016 due to its acquisition of Broadspectrum.
The Australian Government has made it a criminal offence for welfare professionals working on Nauru or Manus Island to speak out and placing service providers under strict confidentiality clauses.
Broadspectrum has warned its staff, in a leaked internal document, that they can be fired for communicating information about operations on Nauru.
The full terms of the contracts under which Wilson Security and Broadspectrum provide services are not publicly known.
Broadspectrum told Amnesty International it “does not operate the Refugee Processing Centre”, a claim repeated by Ferrovial. Meanwhile, the Australian Government claims the centre is run by the Government of Nauru, which has in turn suggested that others are responsible.
In contrast, Amnesty International’s research shows that Broadspectrum runs the RPC on a daily basis and has effective control over the day-to-day lives of refugees and asylum-seekers at the RPC, on behalf of the Australian Government and with the government’s ultimate oversight and control.