December 14, 2013
The Salvos’ $74m contract to provide services, including counselling, to asylum seekers held offshore will not be renewed
The Salvation Army will no longer be providing humanitarian assistance to asylum seekers housed in offshore processing centres on Manus and Nauru, and G4S, the private security company contracted to manage facilities on Manus, has also not had its contract renewed, Guardian Australia can reveal.
The Salvos held a $74m contract with the Department of Immigration and Border Protection to provide services including counselling to asylum seekers held offshore.
A spokesman for the Salvation Army confirmed this contract would not be renewed when it ends on 31 January 2014.
It was unclear who would administer these services after then or if these services would continue.
Guardian Australia understands that senior staff from the Salvos and G4S were told by the immigration minister, Scott Morrison, on Thursday evening their contracts would not be renewed.
G4S holds an $80.5m contract with DIBP to provide “management support services” on Manus. It will not be renewed at the end of January 2014.
A spokesman for G4S said “it is our policy not to comment on contractual matters”. It is unclear what arrangements will be made for management of the Manus site after the G4S contract expires.
The moves come as Morrison revealed a $1.2bn “black hole” in budgeting for offshore processing, which the minister blamed on the previous government.
At his weekly press conference on Friday afternoon, Morrison announced that a range of contracts were due to expire at the end of January and the department did not have provisions to renew them.
He said there would be some savings from the reduced number of asylum seekers arriving at the detention centres but the government was reviewing the contracts for “efficiencies” and would be making comments in the coming weeks.
Morrison did not elaborate on the termination of the Salvos’ contract when asked specifically about it.
“I wouldn’t be making any comment on those matters at this stage, only to say that the contract arrangements for our offshore operations are in the process of being determined with a view to improving our operational effectiveness at all of those centres based on everything we’ve been gleaning for the past 13 weeks since we’ve been in office,” he said.
When told the Salvation Army had confirmed the contract termination, Morrison refused to say whether another provider would be brought in to provide the services, saying: “I provided the answer I’m giving today.”
The Salvation Army were contracted to provide welfare and support services in all offshore processing facilities. These services includedproviding educational and recreational opportunities including facilitating English classes and access to gym facilities and computers.
The Salvos also organised excursions and cultural events for asylum seekers.
The Salvation Army’s presence on Nauru and Manus was criticised as hypocritical by some, as the organisation is opposed to the offshore processing of asylum seekers.
In the past, Salvation Army workers have blown the whistle on harsh conditions at both Manus and Nauru.