Detention Company Set To Be Dropped

Detention company set to be dropped

Tom Arup
The Age
April 3, 2009

THE Federal Government is set to dump controversial company G4S as operator of immigration detention centres.

The Department of Immigration has announced that Serco, which runs prisons and immigration centres in Britain, is its preferred tender to run Australia's six detentions centres. The contract is believed to be worth up to $500 million.

But human rights advocates have hit out at the decision, saying Serco has a poor record in Britain, and detention centres should be operated by the public sector.

Advocate Charandev Singh said Serco's record in Britain showed a “prison mentality” would be brought to its operations in Australia.

“The Government just wants a clean skin in Australia somebody with no blemishes (here),” Mr Singh said.

“G4S and Serco are basically the same company. They come from the same corporate background, running prisons.”

In 2004, a boy, 14, hung himself in a Serco-run youth detention centre in Britain after a guard restrained him with a “nose distraction” technique, part of a wider pain compliance regime.

A coroner's inquiry found the regime contravened human rights law and staff were not trained properly.

A Serco spokeswoman said the company could not comment on its record or the process because it was in contract negotiations with the department.

But in a submission to the NSW Government for two prisons it is applying to operate, Gary Sturgess, Serco's research director, said decency, not efficiency, was the reason governments should have prisons privately run.

Critics of G4S claim it runs a punitive detention regime.