Spanish multinational Ferrovial continued to make millions from the abuse of refugees and people seeking asylum on Nauru and Manus Island in the first half of 2017, despite attempts to distance itself from Australia’s deliberately cruel refugee “processing” system, Amnesty International said today.
Financial reports released today show that between 1 January and 30 June 2017 Ferrovial reported revenues of €1.326 billion from Broadspectrum, its wholly-owned Australian subsidiary which operates Refugee Processing Centres (RPCs) on Nauru and Manus Island. Ferrovial also reported a 40.1% increase in revenues compared to the first half of 2016, largely due to Broadspectrum.
“These huge figures are nothing to celebrate – every penny made from these centres is tainted with suffering”
Secrecy around the contract for running the RPCs allows Broadspectrum and Ferrovial to hide the exact profit they make from this abusive system.
“These huge figures are nothing to celebrate – every penny made from these centres is tainted with the suffering of women, men and children who the Australian government is making an example of to deter other people from seeking safety on its shores,” said Lucy Graham, Amnesty International’s Researcher on Business and Human Rights.
“Ferrovial has responded to criticism of its complicity in this system with indifference and denial, but the money has continued to roll in. Ferrovial needs to take responsibility for its actions – for a year and a half it has been an integral part of a system on Nauru so inherently cruel and abusive that it we believe it amounts to torture.”
Since 2012, Australia has operated intentionally harsh “offshore processing” systems on the Pacific island of Nauru and the island of Manus in Papua New Guinea. Refugees and asylum seekers who arrive in Australia by boat are forcibly taken to remote locations where they are subjected to cruel and degrading conditions, sometimes for years on end.
They have faced physical attacks and sexual assault by some members of staff of companies operating at the centres, and self-harm and suicide attempts are rife.
The refugee “processing” centres on Nauru and Manus Island are run by Broadspectrum, which was acquired by Ferrovial in April 2016. Amnesty International’s 2016 briefing Treasure I$land exposed how Ferrovial and Broadspectrum are complicit in and profiting from the suffering of refugees.
Ferrovial has sought to dodge criticism of its ongoing operations by pointing to its April 2016 announcement that it would not renew its contract with the Australian Government when it expires on 31 October 2017. In the meantime, however, it has continued to generate huge revenue from this contract, and not made public how it will ensure a responsible exit when the contract ends.
It is time for the Australian Government and Ferrovial to come clean about their plans for these islands of despair
The Australian Government recently announced that the main “processing” centre on Manus Island would close on 31 October and has told the people living there that they can move into the community or another smaller centre on the island, or go home. The RPCs on Nauru will remain open. Despite months of notice of Ferrovial’s exit, the Government has not yet announced who will run these facilities.
“Ferrovial must keep its promise to leave on 31 October. But, given the extent of its role and having had a year and a half to plan, it must also make sure that its exit is not as abusive as its engagement in this system. It cannot let the Australian Government leave people in an even worse situation than now,” said Lucy Graham.
“With every day that goes by, the situation for people trapped on these islands becomes more desperate. Refugees do not feel safe in the local community, where they have been subjected to violence and threats, and with the closures on Manus and lack of information about what will happen when Ferrovial leaves, anxiety is rising. It is time for the Australian Government and Ferrovial to come clean about their plans for these islands of despair.”
Amnesty International continues to call on the Australian, Papua New Guinean and Nauruan governments to shut down the offshore processing system and immediately bring all refugees and people seeking asylum to Australia, and ensure that all those who were granted refugee status have the right to settle in Australia. It also continues to warn others not to take on Ferrovial’s contract.
“Australia’s offshore processing system is so fundamentally at odds with even basic human dignity that it would be impossible for anybody to provide core services at these centres without involving themselves in serious human rights abuses,” said Lucy Graham.