We’ve changed Manus for the better: Transfield
TRANSFIELD Services says it has made sweeping changes to security and behaviour management at the Manus Island and Nauru processing centres since it won $1.2 billion in contracts to run the detention camps in the past two years.
The company reached an agreement with the Labor government to run Nauru in late 2012 and took over the contract for Manus Island in recent months after those with the Salvation Army and G4S were not renewed. The changes follow the fatal bashing of Iranian asylum-seeker Reza Barati during a riot at the Manus Island detention centre in February.
Transfield told The Australian that an increased number of those detained inside the facilities were participating in English tuition and supervised trips outside. Art classes were also held, while counselling was handled by Save the Children, chief executive Graeme Hunt said.
On Manus Island, soccer games were arranged with teams of transferees. “A lot of stuff that we are doing is new and wasn’t happening before we got there,” Mr Hunt said.
The chief executive of the leading contracting firm this week offered a detailed and exclusive first-hand account about the environment at the camps, which each accommodated about 1500 boatpeople.
Mr Hunt said on arriving at Nauru for the first time, he was not particularly surprised by what he saw.
The quality of the food, services and recreation that were provided was high, he said.
“There was a function at the end of Ramadan, which was in town, and it was an interface between the people in detention and the processing centre and the locals,” Mr Hunt said of his first trip to Nauru.
However, the nature of the physical environment of Nauru was tough, in the same way such camps were that were located in similar climates in other parts of the world.
“I have been through large parts of Africa and South America and seen refugee camps, and other parts of the world, that are much more challenging,” he said.
Mr Hunt also has plans to fly to Manus Island for his first on-site inspection in the next two months. A priority had been clearing the backlog of individual management plans, which documented the physical and emotional welfare of the detainees.Detainees were working on community outreach projects, including the painting of a local hospital. They were also included in a scoping study for the eradication of malaria on Manus. Religious support was provided, and internet access was also offered. “There are gymnasiums, there are art classes, there are a whole lot of things there to try to get people active,” he said. “The transferees go out, they are not locked up, they go out into the community.”