Tuesday 04 October, 2022

Al-Estiklal Newspaper

How Australia Used Companies to Collect Information About Refugees?

2022/08/14 02:08:00 | Ranya Turki | Reports
“Hitler was killing people. But this system made people kill themselves.”
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The Australian government has hired private security firms to compile security information on Nauru asylum seekers, targeting those speaking to journalists, lawyers, and refugee rights advocates, as revealed by internal 2016 documents.

The Guardian said on Friday, August 5, 2022, that the Wilson Security company employees were collecting bi-monthly reports on "eye-catching" asylum seekers, such as those communicating with Australian media or Australian activists.

The collected reports on asylum seekers, which the British newspaper said it had examined, were circulated among a group of senior government officials and other private contractors operating on the island.

(One of the documents drawn up by Wilson Security based on its surveillance of asylum seekers on Nauru.)


Collecting Intelligence

Through private security contractors, the Australian government collects intelligence on asylum seekers on Nauru, having contact with journalists, lawyers, and refugee advocates, according to internal documents from 2016.

The documents were examined by The Guardian, revealing Intelligence officers working for Wilson Security gathered reports about asylum seekers "of interest," including those who have "links with [Australian] media," "contact with lawyers in Australia," or "contacts with Australian advocates."

The reports were circulated among a group of senior government officials, including superintendents and commanders in the Australian Border Force, officials in Australia's immigration department, members of the Nauru police, the Australian federal police, and other private contractors operating on the island.

The reports were collected during a year of intense protests against detention abroad and were intended to inform the government of the activities of individual asylum seekers, including children, who were seen as a threat to the detention center on the island.

These documents also identify influential members among refugees and protest organizers and anyone who promotes "negative propaganda" about detention abroad or has a "negative influence" at the center.


Torture and Trauma

The reports seen by The Guardian showed Wilson monitored asylum seekers it believed had the ability to influence others in the detention center, and the company's team was also collecting security information on the families of detainees residing in Australia.

One report spoke of a Sri Lankan asylum seeker, whose name was not mentioned by the British newspaper; he was a husband living in Australia and had connections with lawyers.

"Husband resides in Australia and therefore has a connection with lawyers," said the report.

The same report mentioned another asylum seeker presented as a leader of the "Iranian cohort" on Nauru, saying that he "has contact with Lawyers in Australia. Additionally has family in Melbourne."

Nasir Badawi was one of those who were closely watched by Wilson, and he was identified as a source for Australian media.

He was detained on Nauru for four years after fleeing persecution in Iran.

"Badawi, who was finally able to leave Nauru in 2018 and now lives in Sydney's west, is still scarred by his time in detention," The Guardian read.

In an interview with the British newspaper, Badawi expressed shock at watching detainees set themselves on fire during detention and sleeping next to dead bodies.

"These memories just stick with us," he said. "And my son now, he's 14 years old, and he always talks about those experiences. I tell him: 'OK, look, just stop thinking about them. Just let it go. Just forget what happened,' but he said: 'I can't. It is impossible that I stop thinking about my experiences over there. It's in my mind, and I can't forget them.'"

Badawi was under constant threats from the detention center staff, and he was deprived of going to the hospital despite his serious health condition.

Unlike others who were moved to better accommodation, Badawi was kept in tent accommodation even after being declared a refugee because he was still identified as a suspect and a source for Australian media, which may explain this kind of treatment.

"When we were on Nauru…we mentioned many things [to the media] that [the Australian government] might use against us. For example, we said that the government is cruel and [a] dictator. Now I'm a bit worried because we said many things out of anger…but I'm worried maybe they would want revenge."

Another asylum seeker interviewed by The Guardian described the detention center's conditions as horrible, with "extreme heat and humidity, without air circulation, air conditioning or refrigeration," in addition to the asylum seekers' serious health issues.

"All of these statements that were coming to try to make people hopeless, it was the reason…that many people attempt suicide," he said. "They burned themselves. They were just taking [medicine] to kill themselves. There were like lots of suicide attempts as a result of all the statements that they were making," he said.

"If I think about Hitler. Hitler was killing people. But this system made people kill themselves."


Stop Cruel and Illegal Policy

Some of the reports revealed Wilson was providing security information on individual asylum seekers, monitored by the government, to Nauru Police.

The documents exposing all these details were hacked and published by activists on the hacking website Enlace Hacktivista.

The hack came against Australia's policy of offshore detention, following an agreement last year to keep the asylum seeker center open.

The hacking group said in a statement: "We have decided to hack the Nauru Police Force, which the Australian government has assigned to monitor the island, and have obtained 285,635 confidential emails related to the abuse they attempted to cover up, all of which will be made public."

A report by Human Rights Watch said in February 2022 that migrants spend an average of 689 days in detention centers in Australia, and the report said that the period is the longest in the world and is more than 12 times the length of detention in the United States.

The organization called for an end to the cruel and illegal policy against migrants in Australia, and figures from the Australian Department of Home Affairs indicate that there are 1,459 people currently detained in Australia, including more than 70 refugees and asylum seekers who have been transferred from the Pacific islands of Nauru and Manus.





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asylum seekers australian government autralia human rights watch intelligence leaked documents nauru torture