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Pacific News Minute: Australian Government Denies Refugee Torture Charges

waterboardingdotorg / Flickr
waterboardingdotorg / Flickr

As Australia's government prepares to issue new, multi-billion dollar contracts for private companies to run its refugee detention centers, the parliament in Canberra heard charges of abuse at the camps, including, most recently, allegations of torture including waterboarding.  More from Neal Conan in the Pacific News Minute.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton and a spokesman for the company involved...Wilson Security, both strongly rejected the torture charges as unsubstantiated and incorrect.  An unnamed whistle blower who works for Wilson Security made the allegations in a declaration to the parliamentary inquiry.  He said guards at the camp on the island nation of Nauru water boarded asylum seekers, and used another technique he called zipping, where a victim is strapped to a metal bed frame with zip ties, and the bed is tossed into the air and crashes down to the floor.

In its statement, Wilson Security said there had been no formal complaints of water boarding by asylum seekers, and noted that no such claims had emerged in phone calls or on social media and asked the inquiry not to make what it called an inflammatory charge public.  The Whistle blower claimed that a culture of abuse developed among guards, many of them former Australian and New Zealand soldiers who, he said, bear grudges against people from countries where they served.  Many asylum seekers come by sea from Iran and Afghanistan.  Under Australian policy, people who try to enter the country illegally are detained in camps, one in Nauru, the other on the island of Manus in Papua New Guinea, operated by private security firms.  If they are found to be refugees, they have the choice to stay on in Nauru, Papua New Guinea, or relocate to Cambodia.  The parliamentary inquiry into abuse comes as the Government is expected to issue new contracts to operate the camps later this month.

Over 36 years with National Public Radio, Neal Conan worked as a correspondent based in New York, Washington, and London; covered wars in the Middle East and Northern Ireland; Olympic Games in Lake Placid and Sarajevo; and a presidential impeachment. He served, at various times, as editor, producer, and executive producer of All Things Considered and may be best known as the long-time host of Talk of the Nation. Now a macadamia nut farmer on Hawaiʻi Island, his "Pacific News Minute" can be heard on HPR Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.
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