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Refugee issues

Detention dividends – Australia’s immigration detention contract

July 2009: “I took my clothes off because they treat us like animals,” said Mercy Guobatia, a detainee at Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre, where a group of women last year staged a naked protest over inadequate health care and the detention of children.

Yarl’s Wood, 90 minutes north of London, is run by Serco, the Australian Government’s new appointment to manage the nation’s immigration detention centres.

The Rudd Government has made significant reforms to immigration detention, including ending the Pacific Solution, abolishing temporary protection visas, speeding up the processing of asylum claims and expanding alternative forms of detention. However, it has not implemented the longstanding ALP policy of returning the centres to public management.

On 29 June, the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) announced it had signed a $370 million five-year detention services contract — one of the world’s most lucrative — with Serco.

British-based Serco (its name is short for “services company”) is an outsourcing empire with 600 largely government sector contracts in 35 countries — including an estimated £2 billion (AU$4.1 billion) worth of contracts for prisons and security.

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