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The letters: understand why we're writing them.

The report: read our research on companies and the Australian immigration detention system, including sections on:

Offshore detention: Australia’s system and how it abuses human rights.
Contracting companies: which ones profit from detention?
The Norwegian Pension Fund: how it is associated with offshore detention.

Further reading

The Australia Instituteget to know who we are and what we do.

 

The letters

The Australian government's position is clear: it will not shut down the offshore detention centres. Australia's legal system does not protect the fundamental human rights of people seeking asylum, and allows the harmful practice of "offshoring" -- repeatedly condemned by international authorities -- to continue.

The things is, the Australian government can't do offshore detention alone; it relies on companies to do its dirty work on Manus Island and Nauru.

Asking Oljefondet to divest from Ferrovial, the company in charge of contracts to run the camps, sends a clear signal: if companies sign up for this work, they will lose the support of reputable market actors, like Oljefondet.

Click through to our letters for Australians and Norwegians to sign.

The report

Read The Australia Institute's new report: 

Companies and the Australian immigration detention system: Profiting from human rights abuse (pdf).

 

Offshore detention

Australia’s longstanding policy of offshore detention currently rests on the existence of two extraterritorial detention camps, located on the remote islands of Nauru and Manus Island (part of Papua New Guinea). At these camps, asylum seekers and refugees are detained indefinitely, in inadequate conditions, without access to appropriate healthcare and without recourse to Australia’s legal system.

The system of offshore detention has been condemned by the world’s leading international human rights authorities, including he United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch, as well as Australia’s own Human Rights Commission.

A traumatologist with experience counselling those affected by terrorism and natural diasters called Australia’s system of offshore detention “an atrocity.” He said it was the worst situation of trauma he’d ever seen, over a 43 year career.

Read more in the report.

Contracting companies

Corporations play a central role in Australia’s offshore detention system.Because the detention camps are located in other countries with limited resources, the Australian government needs the active participation of companies in order to operate the centres upon which its policy relies. Australia outsources the operation of these centres to companies through contracts valued at over AU$1billion per annum.

Put simply: without companies willing to do the work of operating, maintaining and providing services to the centres, Australia’s offshore detention system would cease to exist.

The companies that have profited directly from the human rights abuses at Australia’s offshore detention centres since 2012 include:

Spanish infrastructure company Ferrovial S.A. is currently responsible for the largest contracts to operate the offshore detention system.

Ferrovial had no association with the camps until it bought Broadspectrum in May 2016. At this time, Broadspectrum was operating the camps. In taking over Broadspectrum, Ferrovial acquired responsibility for the detention contracts with the Australian government. Ferrovial made this acquisition after being provided with detailed information about the human rights abuses in the camps.

Read more in the report.

The Norwegian Pension Fund

On the most recent available market data, Norges Bank Investment Management (NBIM) (the investment arm of the Norwegian Pension Fund) holds approximately 1.71% (valued at US$283million) of Ferrovial, making NBIM one of Ferrovial’s top ten shareholders.

When contacted by The Australia Institute to confirm current holdings, NBIM declined to comment, as per the fund’s “standard policy” not to “comment on individual holdings.”

NBIM has strict expectations, in respect of human rights and children’s rights,of the companies in which it invests.

NBIM previously divested from Broadspectrum. At this time, Broadspectrum was responsible for offshore detention contracts. With Ferrovial’s acquisition of Broadspectrum, the Fund is once again exposed to the human rights abuses occurring at the camps.

Continued investment in Ferrovial, while Ferrovial remains responsible for operating detention camps where well-documented human rights abuses are occurring, is inconsistent with the Norwegian Pension Fund's ethical and governance standards.

Read more in the report.

Further reading

Appalling Abuse, neglect of refugees on Nauru, joint Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International (AI) report, 2 August 2016

The Nauru Files, Database (2016), the Guardian Newspaper

Business in Abuse, No Business in Abuse, Human Rights Law Centre & GetUp!, November 2015

Association with Abuse, No Business in Abuse, Human Rights Law Centre & GetUp!, July 2016

Extraterritorial detention contracting in Australia and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Brynn O’Brien (2016) Business and Human Rights Journal, 1, pp 333-340. doi:10.1017/bhj.2016.12.

Australian Human Rights Commission, “Pathways to Protection: A Human Rights-Based Response to the Flight of Asylum Seekers by Sea,” September 2016

UNHCR, “Statement - UNHCR Calls for Immediate Movement of Refugees and Asylum Seekers to Humane Conditions,” May 2, 2016.

The Australia Institute

The Australia Institute is Australia's most influential progressive think tank. Based in Canberra, it conducts research on a broad range of economic, social and environmental issues in order to inform public debate and bring greater accountability to the democratic process.

The Institute is funded by memberships, donations from philanthropic trusts and individuals, and commissioned research. With no formal political or commercial ties, the Institute is in a position to maintain its independence while advancing a vision for a fair and progressive Australia.

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