Detention centre guards suspended over social media posts

Eight members of the ‘emergency response team’ at Nauru stood down

Guards also posed for picture with controversial MP Pauline Hanson

Employees of Wilson Security’s Nauru emergency response team and others at the Reclaim Australia rally in Brisbane on April 4. From left: Dan Connors, Cody Allen, Alan Hartley, Beau James, former federal MP Pauline Hanson (centre), Motley, Simon Scott (in light green shirt not a Wilson employee), Jamie Scannell, Harley Levanic, (other male in navy blue shirt not a Wilson employee).

Eight guards from Nauru detention centre have been suspended over a possible breach of their employer’s social media guidelines.

The members of the “emergency response team” at Nauru, who were hired on the basis of their cultural “sensitivity”, have been stood down pending an investigation into their social media use.

Some promoted the Reclaim Australia movement and some posted anti-Islam slurs online.

The Nauru guards also posed with Pauline Hanson, the controversial former federal MP and One Nation founder who has long called for immigration restrictions, after she spoke at the rally in Brisbane on 4 April.

A former employee for Transfield subcontractor Wilson Security told Guardian Australia the guards’ online posts provided a glimpse of the mindset of ex-defence force personnel who “frequently referred to asylum seekers in their care as ‘the enemy’ ”.

This included Facebook posts of material comparing Islam to Nazism, accusing companies from Cadbury to Krispy Kreme of supporting terrorism by having products certified as Halal, and the embrace of the slogan “infidels” through T-shirts and tattoos.

A spokesman for the detention centre operator Transfield Services, which employed the men, said the matters were “very concerning and not at all what we expect of our staff”.

It follows Transfield’s suspension on Monday of another guard at the Manus Island detention centre who posted links to Reclaim Australia and the boycott halal movements on Facebook.

The rally was one of a string of nationwide events protesting the influence of Islam in Australia, conflating the religion with violent extremism and provoking counter protests by self-described anti-racist groups.

One of the guards, Simon Scott, posted the group photo with Hanson on his Facebook page with the comment: “What more can I say.”

Another guard, Graham Motley, a veteran of a Royal Australian Regiment task force that mentored soldiers in Afghanistan, commented under the post: “Royal Australian Infidels”.

Two others in the photo, Beau James and Dann Connors, sport T-shirts bearing the word “infidel”.

Another guard, Harley Levanic, revealed on Facebook his new neck tattoo bearing the same word. James commented on the picture: “Welcome to the gang… Well done old son. Looks awesome.”

A day before the rally, James, tagged a post likening Muslims to Germans who enabled the rise of Nazis through inaction, with the comment: “See yas tomoz boys!!! Bring your pitch forks.”

Another guard, Simon Scott, posts on the same day: “Let me know when we are meeting in the city. I need someone to help me with a bag of ammonium nitrate.”

Last week, Connors posted about a visit to the Lindt cafe in Sydney where a siege in December 2014 ended in the deaths of self-proclaimed jihadist Man Haron Monis and two hostages. Scott responded: “Did you smell dead joondie in there?” “Joondie”, derived from the Arabic word for soldier, is a slang term used by Australian defence personnel to refer to the Taliban.

Last month Scott endorsed a boycott on Halal products, saying: “Don’t be UnAustralian and buy these products. Let the filthy sub human genetic Islamic filth have it.”

Seven of the eight men suspended – Levanic, James, Connors, Scott, Graham Motley, Cody Allen, and Alan Hartley – are understood to be former military personnel.

Motley served in Afghanistan as part of a mentoring task force led by the 8/9th battalion, Royal Australian Regiment from Brisbane. He told the Toowoomba chronicle in 2012 that the work had given him a better understanding of Afghanistan culture.

The eighth is Jamie Scannell, whose comment on the Hanson photo was: “Pauline Hanson’s Protection Team. Great photo boys.”

The team is trained in riot control but also called in to deal with “incidents” in the Nauru centre, from self harm to disputes between asylum seekers.

Many of the asylum seekers on Nauru are Muslims from the Middle East and parts of Asia.

In a job advertisement last year for “offshore security specialists” including emergency response officers, Wilson Security said that “successful applicants will … be culturally sensitive” while those “with (foreign) language skills are highly regarded”.

A spokesman for Transfield Services told Guardian Australia that all eight men were stood down while the company investigates whether they were in violation of a new social media policy.

“These matters are very concerning and not at all what we expect of our staff,” the spokesman said.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Immigration and Border Protection said it expected “service provider staff to act appropriately and with integrity in all their dealings with the people in their care”.

“Inappropriate use of social media channels will not be tolerated, particularly if it involves offensive material,” she said.

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