Immigration

Australian security worker on Manus Island arrested for sexual harassment

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An Australian Paladin employee is behind bars on Manus Island, accused of inappropriately touching a female employee.

An Australian man working as a security supervisor for the Paladin company on Manus Island has been arrested and charged with sexual harassment.

Manus Island police told SBS News the man was taken into custody on Thursday after allegedly inappropriately touching one of the company's local female employees.

SBS News understands the man was previously dismissed from another security company on the island for "mistreatment of asylum seekers".

It comes as the auditor-general's office confirmed it will investigate Paladin's controversial $423 million Australian government contract.

'No one is above the law'

Chief Inspector David Yapu said the incident occurred at a hotel on Manus Island last month where the woman worked. The accused allegedly groped her as she walked past.

"The victim reported the matter of sexual harassment to the management of the Paladin security company but no action was taken [so] she reported the matter to police," he said.

"There is also another allegation of a similar incident by another victim who is yet to be located by police and interviewed."

An image of the accused.
An image of the accused.
Supplied

Mr Yapu said the accused's passport had been surrendered to police and he is now "locked up".

The man was charged with "sexual touching, under the Criminal Code Act" and will appear in Lorengau Committal Court on Monday.

Mr Yapu said he was "very concerned" about this incident and that "expatriate males coming to work in Papua New Guinea must respect females workers at the work place and treat them fairly and within the confines of the laws of PNG".

"No one is above the law and everyone is subject to one rule of law," he said.

SBS News asked the Department of Home Affairs if it was aware of the incident and if it would affect its relationship with Paladin.

"If allegations are substantiated, the department may, at its sole discretion, give notice to service providers to remove personnel from work in respect of the services provided under the contract," a spokesperson said.

"This is the case for any instance where there is breach of contract or where the department determines that individuals have breached the applicable code of conduct."

Prior incident

The Refugee Action Coalition told SBS News it was familiar with the arrest and that the accused had previously been fired from another Manus Island contractor.

Spokesperson Ian Rintoul said the man was dismissed from security company G4S for the "mistreatment of asylum seekers" when they were transferred to Manus Island in late 2013.

Manus Island offshore detention centre
Men at the Manus Island detention centre.
AAP

"[We understand] he was throwing food at them and there were complaints made ... But somehow he found employment again."

"The fact that someone who was sacked by G4S for mistreatment [and then rehired] shows an extreme lack of oversight."

SBS News has contacted G4S for comment.

What is Paladin?

Paladin is contracted by the Australian government to provide security and other services on Manus Island.

But an investigation has been launched into its $423 million contract.

The auditor-general is investigating whether the Department of Home Affairs "appropriately managed the procurement of garrison support and welfare services for immigration processing centres".

A refugee on Manus Island.
A refugee on Manus Island.
AAP

The little-known company, whose Australian arm was until recently registered to a beach shack on Kangaroo Island, was awarded the contract in 2017 through a closed tender process.

It was given the tender despite not having enough money to start the contract and its founder having a history of bad debts.

In February, Paladin's Manus Island staff walked off the job claiming they had been underpaid and overworked.

The company has rejected suggestions of misconduct or corruption over the contract.

The audit is expected to be tabled in parliament in January 2020.

The regional processing centre on Manus Island's Lombrum Naval Base closed in 2017 but there are about 600 refugees living in camps in the main town of Lorengau.

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