Criminal offences may have been committed by DIPB in offshore detentio

27th Jun 2016

Criminal offences may have been committed by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIPB) or its contractors against people being held in immigration detention, according to a recent report released by the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA).

The report, Untold Damage: Workplace health and safety in immigration detention under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (Cth), revealed that sexual abuse, suicides and other serious injuries in immigration detention have been systematically under-reported and possibly concealed by the authorities.

ALA spokesperson Anna Talbot cited the example of detainee Dalvir Singh, who committed suicide while in detention despite the DIPB being warned of Mr Singh’s history of attempting self-harm. Ms Talbot said that the DIPB did not act on this knowledge, however, because no one opened the email attachment which contained the warning.

“This kind of basic ineptitude by DIPB officials may have cost this man his life,” Ms Talbot said.

“The information was there and the DIBP would have acted differently if it had been read. The Coroner found that there was ‘a lack of appropriate systems or processes in place’” said Ms Talbot, quoting from the Coroner’s report.

Ms Talbot said it is important to highlight such tragic examples of mismanagement in immigration detention during Refugee Week this week.

“Not only does Mr Singh’s death point to wider concerns regarding safety in immigration detention, where many refugees and asylum seekers are detained, it could also indicate that offences have been committed under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (Cth) (WHS Act). That Act obliges officers of workplaces to ensure that safe systems of work are in place,” Ms Talbot said.

“If that obligation is not met, officers can be held liable, even if the DIBP is not charged.”

“Allegations of concealment of, and reprisals against workers who reveal, health and safety problems could also indicate that offences have been committed,” Ms Talbot said.

“Workers raising health and safety concerns or proposing solutions to them cannot suffer negative consequences, according to the WHS Act. Our report details instances of such offences possibly having been committed, including against Save the Children and its workers,” Ms Talbot said.

“Contractors could also be implicated. The Nauru Senate Inquiry heard that contractors destroyed evidence that put them in a bad light. The Inquiry found that 45 allegations of child abuse and sexual assault had been recorded by Transfield (now Broadspectrum).”

“If Transfield/Broadspectrum knew of ongoing abuse and did nothing to prevent it, it could be liable under the Criminal Code (Cth),” said Ms Talbot.

The ALA has provided its report to Comcare, requesting investigation and prosecution of any offences that may have been committed under the WHS Act. It has also requested that any offences under other legislation, which might include concealment of or aiding and abetting other serious crimes, be referred to the appropriate investigating body.

“It’s time for a Royal Commission or similar inquiry into these concerns. Such widespread and systematic abuses and offences need to be brought to light,” Ms Talbot said.

That ALA’s Untold Damage report can be downloaded here:

Tags: WorkCover Asylum seekers and refugees Access to justice