Save the Children Calls for Nauru Removal Compensation
Tuesday, 19th January 2016 at 11:30 am
The Australian arm of international aid charity, Save the Children, has said that its detention centre staff removed from Nauru deserve compensation, following a review that found the then government’s actions were “not justified”.
The Department of Immigration evicted nine Save the Children staff from the Nauru Regional Processing Centre in October 2014 for allegedly encouraging asylum seekers to self-harm.
But an independent review by lawyer and immigration expert, Christopher Doogan, found that there was “no evidence nor reliable information” to support the claim.
Save the Children Australia CEO, Paul Ronalds, told Pro Bono Australia News that he welcomed the Doogan report’s exoneration of the charity and seconded its recommendation for compensation.
“In the circumstances we believe that compensation for the impacted staff and for the costs that Save the Children has incurred is absolutely warranted,” Ronalds said.
He said the staff who worked on Nauru dealt with "some of the most vulnerable children in the toughest of circumstances".
"The idea that they would fabricate cases of abuse or encourage children to hurt themselves was always absurd," he said.
"We have said this right from the very beginning. These were some of our most talented and hardest working colleagues, and children and their families on Nauru were the poorer for their absence."
Doogan first recommended in his Federal Government commissioned report that Save the Children staff receive compensation from the government.
“I recommend that ‘without prejudice’ negotiations be entered into to identify losses experienced by SCA and each of the affected SCA staff members,” the report said.
The report investigated the circumstances surrounding the removal letter issued on 2 October 2014 by an authority acting on behalf of then immigration minister Scott Morrison, directing that the charity immediately remove 10 of its employees.
Doogan found that contractor staff on Nauru were being pressured by the then Abbott government to provide evidence against the organisation, and the “information available at the time the removal clause was activated did not warrant issuing the removal letter”.
“Contractor staff on Nauru were being pushed to provide names and information to support what was perceived in Canberra to be SCA [Save the Children Australia] staff providing innappropriate support or assistance to transferees in various ways,” the report said.
“There was in fact no evidence nor reliable information on which to specifically name nine of the ten SCA staff.”
The removal was based on a Transfield Services intelligence report from 30 September 2014 that said it was “probable” that Save the Children staff were coaching asylum seekers on how to be resettled in Australia.
“It is considered probable that refugee advocates and some service providers are engaged with asylum seekers and refugees, to manufacture situations where ‘evidence’ can be obtained of the unsuitability of Nauru for processing and resettlement,” the Transfield Service report said.
“It is probable that there is a degree of internal and external coaching, and encouragement, to achieve evacuation to Australia through self-harm actions.”
However, Doogan found that the agency had intended to conduct further investigations.
“It seems reasonably clear that the information provided in relation to the ten SCA staff members was not intended to be acted upon in the way it was acted upon,” the report said.
“Rather it seems that the intention was that further investigation would be undertaken before any action was taken.
“[Name protected] from Transfield Services said in his email of 2 October 2014 – after naming the 10 staff members ‘…We have no further evidence of SCA involvement at this stage, we will however, continue to monitor the situation…’”
Doogan also found that, prior to issuing the removal letter, no consideration was given to seeking legal advice, complete reliance was placed on the Immigration Department’s “absolute discretion”.