THis email from the UK based NCADC about the death of a refugee during deportation has salutary lessons for Australia where immigration management has been outsourced to companies and agencies. This enables Government to cry “clean hands” when it all goes wrong.

Detention has become the richest gravy train in Australia with snouts in the trough gorging on the rich pickings. Global security, health corporations are making a killing and then outsourcing to other security companies to fill the gaps. The rights of asylum seekers are shunted through so many hands it is hard to find target and stop the abusers. Who is responsible – no one? Who will speak out? No One. After all these contracts carry confidentiality clauses to buy silence, further covering government’s.

Can privatization kill?

Thomas Gammeltoft-Hansen, New York Times
1 April 2012

ON Oct. 12, 2010, Jimmy Mubenga was deported from Britain. The 46-year-old Angolan had come to the country as a refugee 16 years earlier. But after his involvement in a pub brawl and a subsequent criminal conviction, the government ordered his deportation. Three private security guards escorted him through Heathrow Airport and onto British Airways Flight 77 to Luanda, Angola. The exact details of what followed are still unclear and currently subject to criminal investigation. Several passengers onboard the plane reported that Mr. Mubenga repeatedly complained that he could not breathe and that he was being held down with his head between his knees by security guards. As the airplane taxied to the runway in London, Mr. Mubenga lost consciousness and later died.

Immigration control has traditionally been viewed as an inalienable sovereign function of the state. But today migration management has increasingly been taken over by private contractors. Proponents of privatization have been keen to argue that the use of contractors does not mean that governments lose control. Yet, privatization introduces a corporate veil that blurs both public oversight and legal accountability. Despite efforts to introduce outside supervisors, performance reports and other monitoring mechanisms, the private nature of these companies breaks the ordinary administrative chain of command, placing both governments and the public at a disadvantage in terms of ensuring transparency.

Today, government outsourcing has given rise to an industry that encompasses nearly every aspect of migration management in countries across the globe. This shift comes at a price: It eliminates government accountability and runs roughshod over the rights of those subjected to private corporations control. And unless governments reassert control over what used to be a core sovereign function of the state, many more Jimmy Mubengas are likely to die.

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