Australia Welcomes Asian Refugees with Detention in For-Profit Jails -- Or by Just Allowing Them to Drown
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Daniel doesn't look like a typical activist. He sports a shaved head, stands over six-feet tall and moves with the leisurely gait of a man who isn't told to hurry up much. He exudes the calm badassery of someone who has listened to his share of punk music and can dissect Propagandhi lyrics for hours.
But there are occasional tells. When he turns around, I notice he had sewn part of a recycled Dead Kennedys T-shirt shouting "ERASE RACISM" into his jacket. There is a copy of "A People's History of the United States" tucked away by the clutch in his car, just in case he needs a quick refresher on the labor tradition while trapped in gridlock.
He is an encyclopedia of activist information. He knows about the anarchist flash mobs in Newtown, can go on at length about the downfall of the organized left (spoiler: it has to do with a naïve hope that the proletariat will collectively rise up and attack Timothy Geithner), but what really sets him off is the treatment of refugees in Australia.
Daniel can barely contain his anger at the situation. He feels genuine kinship with the refugees who he says, "just want a chance" like anybody else.
He tells us we're traveling to Villawood Detention Centre, which is located in Sydney's western suburbs. I sit in the backseat. My radio co-host, Jamie, rides shotgun.
After caving to deficit hysteria, the Australian government began strategizing to reduce the budget and one of the ways they cut spending was by outsourcing detention center services. As a result, Villawood is run by a company called Serco, which Daniel calls "Australia's Blackwater," meaning it's a very large private company that performs a typically public service -- incarcerating human beings.
Serco is based in the United Kingdom and provides electronic tagging devices for offenders and asylum seekers. The company runs four prisons and two "Immigration Removal Centres" in Britain in addition to Hunfeld Prison in Germany, Acacia Prison in Western Australia and Borallon Correctional Facility in Queensland.
In 1999, Serco paid $53 million to acquire Elekluft, a company that specialized in military and aerospace customers and was originally formed in 1961 to install and support German air defense radar systems. Currently, Serco holds several international defense contracts, including the British government's first modern outsourced contract for the operation and maintenance of the UK ballistic missile, early warning system.
The company is at the forefront of privatized public infrastructure, operating numerous facets of London transport (and the IT infrastructure of the London Borough of Southwark,) the Great Southern Railways in Australia and the Dubai Metro. It also supplies air traffic control services to international airports in Bahrain, Dubai and smaller airports in the United States, and since 2004, Serco has had a $7.9 million annual contract from the US government to manage airports in Iraq.
Serco's privatized tentacles even ensnare health and education, including management services at several British hospitals. Currently, Serco holds a ten-year contract with Bradford City Council, Walsal and Stoke-on-Trent to manage and operate the local education authority, which entails providing education support services such as the dispensing of a student information system called " Facility" to schools and colleges around the world.
The company even has a $114 million contract with Ontario to operate the province's Drive Test driver examination centers.
Quite literally, you could experience a Serco-provided life from morning until night and never realize it.
Much like Christian crusader and Blackwater CEO, Erik Prince, Serco CEO Christopher Hyman was born into an Indian Pentecostal Christian family. In an interview with the Guardian, Hyman remarked, "My faith is very strong. My whole life, I believe, is driven by God."