The government must put an end to the “moral and financial black hole” in Nauru by terminating the contract with Canstruct and returning those who are on Nauru in Australia, after New Zealand refugee resettlement agreement, human rights groups say.
Asked on Friday whether Canstruct’s contract for “garrison and social services”, which has so far cost taxpayers nearly $ 2 billion, will be terminated, the government declined to answer.
But the interior ministry has confirmed it is looking to sign a new deal with private contractors to maintain a “strong” presence of offshore processing on the island.
The vast majority of those who are in Nauru – there are currently just over 100 people on the island – are now on their way to a third country. The Guardian too understands the New Zealand deal for the resettlement of 150 refugees each year for three years, priority will be given to Nauru.
The Canstruct contract expires in June, but the interior ministry will not say whether the contract will be extended – likely worth hundreds of millions of dollars – until all relocations are completed.
The contract is still cost taxpayers more than $ 1.8 billion after repeated extensions.
The latest extension, which funded Canstruct’s work from January to June, cost taxpayers $ 218 million.
Amnesty International’s Refugee Coordinator Graham Tom said there was no point in continuing the contract now, given almost all those still on Nauru will be relocated to third countries.
He said they should instead be returned to Australia while the resettlement process continues.
“Given that these people, the vast majority, are now on their way to a third country, we don’t know why they need to be kept in Nauru,” Tom Guardian said.
“It seems pointless to increase suffering for those people who have voluntarily raised their hands to go somewhere else … why do you need to keep them in Nauru at great expense if you end up planning to clog the center?”
Government figures show that Australian taxpayers spend more than $ 12,000 a day on one refugee or asylum seeker.
Originally Canstruct got a contract with Nauru through a “letter of intent” worth $ 8 million, and then won contracts through a limited tender.
The contract has been amended several times to extend the company’s work in Nauru. Government figures show eight additional non-competitive amendments to the contract, which increased the total cost to $ 1.82 billion.
Last month, The Guardian has revealed that Canstruct, through its holding company, earned $ 101 million in 2020-21 – more than $ 500,000 for each of the less than 200 people on the island.
Despite the agreement with New Zealand, the Australian government has shown that it sees restraining value in maintaining “strong regional processing capabilities” in Nauru. signing an opaque memorandum of understanding with the Nauru government late last year.
It is unclear whether this long-term offshore processing will include Canstruct, but it will require private contractors, and the agreement allows both countries to “develop confidential ancillary arrangements to support the effective implementation of this MOU, including funding”.
The Department of the Interior said its deal with New Zealand “does not indicate a change in government policy on border protection.”
“The Australian Government remains committed to regional treatment as a key element of its response to the smuggling of seafarers through Operation Sovereign,” the spokesman said.
A spokesman said the new agreement with Nauru would require compliance with “regional processing contracts in Nauru”.
“On December 10, 2021, the Department published a limited tender on AusTender entitled” Services, garrison, services for the arrival of persons and foster persons in the Republic of Nauru. “
“The department is conducting a limited tender for several organizations to maintain regional processing capabilities.”
This week, Senator Jackie Lambie said she had agreed with the government to accept a resettlement proposal in New Zealand during talks on her support for the repeal of the 2019 medical evacuation legislation.
Director of the Asylum Seekers Resource Center Jan Faver said it was “outrageous” that the contract was ongoing despite the government knowing that refugees from Nauru would be relocated to New Zealand.
Reiterating Amnesty’s calls, Favera called on the government to bring Nauru residents to Australia at the time of their resettlement, which allowed it to terminate its contract with Canstruct.
“The cost, the damage, the lack of services were well documented, so in the face of the agreement with New Zealand it shows us that it was even more ridiculous,” she said.
“The question arises as to why the government, knowing that the agreement with New Zealand will not be implemented, knowing that most people will be transferred to New Zealand, why they are not brought to Australia before that happens.
“It’s a moral and financial black hole.”
Canstruct declined to comment, citing contractual obligations.
The Interior Ministry did not respond to requests for comment.