Hospitals and universities urged to cut ties with refugee detention

RISE argues that contracting companies with ties to detention goes against the ethical principles of these institutions. Image: Craig Lloyd. Pexels.

THE Royal Women’s Hospital, Monash University, Ambulance Victoria, and The University of New South Wales have appeared on a list of health and education institutions involved in refugee detention supply chains.

The list was released recently online by RISE: Refugees, Survivors and eX-detainees, an asylum seeker and refugee run advocacy organization, as part of their Detention Divestment campaign.

The campaign calls out hospitals and universities with ties to security companies presently or previously involved in the on and offshore dentition of refugees in Australia.

RISE encourages people to search up their local institutions on the list and get in contact with those listed, urging them to cease connection with these companies.

“We eX-detainees urge hospitals and universities to immediately divest from detention-connected security companies as they are complicit in the continuous violation of the human rights of detainees and refugees in Australian detention centres,” said RISE in a media release announcing the campaign.

There are currently 11 universities and 26 hospitals from across Australia listed on the Detention Divestment website.

All have contracts with one of three security companies, Serco, Wilson Security and MSS, that themselves either hold, have held, or subcontract with another company that does hold contracts in the detention industry.

Over the years, many allegations of abuse have been made against the businesses involved in both on an offshore detention.

This includes the 2020 Monitoring Immigration Detention report by the Commonwealth Ombudsman that expressed “increasing concerns” about the use of force and restraints against detainees, lack of privacy and failure by contractors to properly manage complaints.

“Private security contractors are using unlawful and unjustified force against people in the Government’s care,” said David Burke, Legal Director at the Human Rights Law Centre, regarding the report via the Centre’s website.

“Abuse thrives behind closed doors,” he said.

“And this report reveals that force has been used against people who pose no threat to safety.”

As such, RISE argues the contracting of these companies with ties to detention goes against the commitments to care, anti-discrimination and the rights of women, children and refugees included in the charters of these hospitals and universities.

“A continual contractual agreement with any dentition security company is fundamentally at odds with the core ethical principles advocated by universities and hospitals,” the RISE statement said.

This is not the first time the advocacy organization has protested the involvement of detention-connected security companies within universities and hospitals.

Back in 2019, RISE published a letter to the University of Melbourne calling on them to end their contract with Wilson Security, who for many years provided security for detention centres on Manus Island and Nauru until their contract ended in 2017.

The letter was signed by more than 209 people, including professors and university staff, but was ultimately rendered moot when it was revealed that, despite Wilson Security’s website claiming otherwise, the university no longer held a contract with the company.

However, The University of Melbourne is still present on the Detention Divestment list for their contracting of MSS Security, who subcontract with Serco.

More successful boycotts have been made against these companies.

In 2018, the National Gallery of Victoria terminated its contract with Wilson Security after receiving an open letter signed by over 1500 contributors unhappy with the company’s involvement in detention.

More recently, RISE has run a solidarity campaign in which more than 100 Australian musicians have pledged to divest from the detention industry.

“Campaigns like this are beginning to create a groundswell of support for detention divestment,” said the RISE release.

For RISE, such support is one step close to their goal of eX-detainee self-determination and an end to the mandatory detention of refugees and asylum seekers in Australia.

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