Transfield immigration staff can be 'instantly dismissed' for affiliating with asylum seekers

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Transfield Services has warned its staff on Nauru and Manus Island that interacting with a current or former asylum seeker through social media could result in 'serious consequences' including 'instant dismissal'.

Transfield Services staff working on Manus Island and Nauru detention centres have been told they can be fired for interacting with asylum seekers on social media, or being affiliated with a political, advocacy or religious groups opposed to Australia’s refugee policy.

In an addendum to its social media policy, Transfield Services issued a document to all Manus Island and Nauru staff members stating that they weren’t allowed to reveal any information on their offshore processing operations. 

"Due to the nature of the Operations, there is a heightened risk that the publication of information or comments about the operations may pose a risk to the operations, transferees and/or workers, or damage the business or reputation of Transfield Services," it said.

Transfield Services confirmed to SBS the document is legitimate and issued a statement saying: "We have no further comment to make on the issue."

Manus Island and Nauru immigration staff are also prohibited from exchanging emails, fax numbers, addresses, or write letters to current or former asylum seekers without permission.

Staff must also refrain from supporting an "incompatible organisation" such as advocacy, political or religious groups that oppose the offshore processing of asylum seekers. They are also prohibited from attending rallies or demonstrations that promote the closure of offshore detention centres.

"A breach of this policy may result in disciplinary action up to and including instant dismissal," the document said. 

Guardian Australia journalist Ben Doherty has also been blacklisted on the detention centres, with Transfield putting up posters of his photo and warning staff not to speak to him. 

"Do not exchange any information with this gentleman. His name is Ben Doherty. See your manager or supervisor immidiately (sic) if you see him..."

'Transfield staff shouldn't be surprised by social media policy'

Former Department of Immigration employee Greg Lake told SBS Transfield is entitled to have a policy on social media use, like any other company. Mr Lake previously managed detention centres on Nauru and Christmas Island, as well as Scherger in Far North Queensland and Curtin in WA.

He said new employees are given verbal briefings, which may go further than the conditions set out in the document.

"So those verbal briefings are often where the statements are made about who you can affiliate with," Mr Lake said. "They might actually name those organisations and say, 'If you're a member of those organisations, you need to cease contact with those people today.'"

He said immigration staff ought to know what they're "signing up to" and shouldn't be surprised by Transfield's policies and its right to fire staff for breaching those rules.

"You [don’t] enter into that job with the view of basically having a go at the government for their policy, and if you did, you shouldn't have been employed and it's right that you're stood down from your position."

'Crackdown on information flow out of detention centres'

Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young told reporters she was "extremely concerned" about Transfields policies which she believes is a "crackdown on information flow out of detention centres".

"What is the government trying to hide? What is the governments contractors trying to hide from the Australian people," she said.

"The gag clauses on staff in these centres are some of the most stringent in the country in terms of workplace protections and regulation. We know they are so bad that even when issues of child abuse, sexual assault, other types of intimidation are not being reported, because staff are so intimidated by the crackdown on speaking out and the attitude towards secrecy."

In March, a UN report found multiple cases where Australia has breached the international convention against torture.

 

 

 

 

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