Apology and Compensation for Sacked Nauru Staff
1 February 2017 at 11:32 am
Aid agency Save the Children Australia has welcomed the government’s apology and payment of compensation to staff who were sacked from Nauru amid false allegations they had encouraged asylum seekers to self-harm.
The Department of Immigration has issued a statement expressing regret for “any hurt and embarrassment” caused and paid compensation to the nine Save the Children workers.
According to the statement the department acknowledged “that at the time of the removal direction and subsequently, it had no reason to cause doubt to be cast on the SCA employees’ reputation”.
Save the Children Australia CEO Paul Ronalds said they were pleased the “saga” was coming to an end.
“Save the Children welcomes the Department of Immigration and Border Protection’s statement of regret issued on Tuesday morning, regarding the treatment of our former employees on Nauru,” Ronalds said.
“We are pleased that this traumatic and drawn out saga is now coming to an end for some of the most committed people who ever worked on our Nauru program.
“These nine people dedicated themselves to educating and protecting some of the world’s most vulnerable children in the toughest of circumstances, and the idea that they would ever fabricate cases of abuse or encourage children to hurt themselves is, and always was, absurd.”
It comes after the nine Save the Children employees were deported by the Nauruan government following a direction from the immigration department on 2 October 2014 to remove 10 of the aid agency’s employees from the provision of services.
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.
In the latest statement the department confirmed it “relied on allegations that the staff had orchestrated protest activity, coached and encouraged self-harm of detainees, engaged in a campaign to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the government’s regional processing arrangements and misused and improperly disclosed sensitive and confidential information”.
These allegations have since proved to be unfounded.
An independent review by lawyer and immigration expert Christopher Doogan found that there was “no evidence nor reliable information” to support the claim.
According to his report: “There was in fact no evidence nor reliable information on which to specifically name nine of the 10 SCA staff.”
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”.
In line with recommendations from Doogan, the department reached a confidential financial settlement with the NGO in May 2016.
The amount of compensation that has now been paid to the employees is unknown but according to the statement is sufficient to “place the SCA employees in the position they would have been in, had the removal letter not been issued”.
The department also recognised the employees had “suffered detriment for which – to adopt the words of Professor Doogan – the payment of money cannot be adequate compensation”.
Ronalds said he hoped it would at least provide closure.
“While Save the Children welcomes the department’s statement, no words or payment of money can truly compensate these professionals for the detriment that they have suffered since October 2014, although we sincerely hope that this latest development will provide some degree of closure.”