RISE: Refugees, Survivors and Ex-Detainees is the first and only refugee organisation in Australia that is governed, staffed and controlled entirely by refugees, asylum seekers and ex-detainees. RISE represents over 30 refugee community groups in Australia and is a strong advocate for refugees and asylum seekers. At present, there are over 2800 members who are primarily ex-detainee asylum seekers and refugees.
As a backbone to our work, RISE strongly disapproves of any refugee movement, organisation, policy or individual that creates and/or supports a refugee scheme to imprison refugees and asylum seekers in detention centres and violates our peoples’ civil rights. For that matter, we do not endorse any movement, organisation or individual that violates any group of people’s civil rights. As we have stated, RISE is governed by and represents the interests of refugees, asylum seekers and ex-detainees, many of whom have first- hand experience of the harmful effects of the detention system. RISE has written and spoken out extensively about the consequences of Australia’s inhumane immigration detention policies.
The purpose of this letter is to address the continued lack of accountability in Save the Children-Australia’s role in the Australian government’s abusive, human rights violating asylum seeker trafficking and detention supply chain in Manus and Nauru, with a number of news reports that indicate asylum seeker and refugee children under Save the Children’s care were assaulted and sexually abused. Only a few days ago there has been another news report with allegations that your organisation withheld key evidence from the Australian human rights commission on sexual abuse of children in the Australian government’s internment camp in Nauru.
Save the Children-Australia’s 2014 Annual report (page 72) acknowledges that there was a 41% increase in income due to funding from the Australian Department of Immigration and border protection (DIBP) to run “services” in the Manus and Nauru asylum seeker internment camps. These funds total to more than a 100 million dollars of Australian tax payers’ money. We are appalled by the apparent hypocrisy in the actions of your organisation publicly condemning the detention of children, while accepting lucrative sums of money from DIBP, the very same abusers of both adults and children from our community, with the children under your care being caged and abused, rather than being saved.
We are sure you would agree that the first rule of thumb in community service is to be accountable to those who we claim to serve over our funders or other vested interests. Therefore as members of the refugee community, we ask the following questions about your organisation’s role in caging our people…adults and children…in Nauru and Manus:
1. Knowing that the arbitrary detention of asylum seekers and the refoulement of asylum seekers to Manus and Nauru is illegal, anti-refugee and unhumanitarian, why did Save the Children sign a contract to work for and accept money from, the very government that was violating basic human rights laws, including the rights of children?
2. Paul Ronalds, the CEO of Save the Children-Australia, publicly urged refugee advocates to accept asylum seeker boat turnbacks are here to stay. Considering the fact that the operation of boat turnbacks endangers the lives of asylum seekers does your organisation endorse this compromise of human lives, including the lives of children?
3. Did Save the Children fail to disclose the physical and sexual assault of children and the lack of safety of children in Nauru to the Australian Human rights commission? If yes, for what reason did Save the Children withhold this information?
4.How does Save the Children justify taking money from the very same entity that incarcerates asylum seeker children and ignoring refugee boat turn backs align with Save the Children’s vision of “a world in which every child attains the right to survival, protection, development and participation”?
5. Nine of your workers are reported to have been given $1 million in compensation from the Australian government and extensive legal advice. Keeping in mind that your organisation and your employees made a choice to work in Nauru, were paid salaries while they were working on the island and had freedom of movement including freedom to cross borders; what estimate would you put on the amount of compensation owed to hundreds of our community members trafficked, caged and held hostage in Manus and Nauru or those who were coerced into self-deporting to danger from Manus and Nauru?
6. Will Save the Children ensure that compensation is provided for those who were abused under their care and their families?
Our members have been, and continue to be outspoken for more than a decade at great personal cost, about the abusive nature of Australia’s mandatory detention system, hence we continue to regard with disbelief that people callously continue to apply for jobs in this abusive system. To witness this apparent ignorance, disregard and erasure of voices of refugee and asylum seeker detainees and ex-detainees in the struggle for justice and freedom is an ongoing trauma our community faces to this day. We demand that Save the Children and all other organisations and individuals to please, in the name of humanity, desist from working in, being complicit in and endorsing asylum seeker/refugee concentration camps and other anti-refugee policies.
On behalf of RISE Team