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Australia: Concerns raised about potential health hazards of mould outbreak at offshore immigration detention centre operated by Broadspectrum on Nauru

Media reports (see below) cite the occurrence of potential health risks to refugees, asylum seekers and staff caused by a mould problem at the offshore immigration detention centre operated by Broadspectrum (formerly Transfield Services) on Nauru.

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited Broadspectrum to respond to concerns about health risks to occupants and staff at the centre. A company spokesperson for Broadspectrum responded that it "maintained a safe and healthy workplace for its employees while working at the Regional Processing Centres until 31 October 2017." 

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Company response
20 March 2018

Broadspectrum's company response

Author: Broadspectrum

We invited Broadspectrum to respond to concerns raised in reports about potential health risks to refugees, asylum seekers and staff caused by a mould problem at Nauru immigration detention centre.

A spokesperson for the company responded:

“Broadspectrum maintained a safe and healthy workplace for its employees while working at the Regional Processing Centres until 31 October 2017.”

 

Article
10 March 2018

Transfield feared riots over mould at Nauru centre: leaked emails

Author: Lisa Martin, The Sydney Morning Herald

24 February 2018

Transfield Services [now Broadspectrum] was worried about asylum seekers potentially rioting as it looked to clean mould off the inside of tents at the Nauru detention centre, leaked emails show...Transfield may have misled a Senate inquiry over its efforts to fix a mould problem at the facility. Transfield manager Derek Osborn gave evidence at a parliamentary hearing on May 19, 2015 and insisted the company had a "detailed process to remove" the mould on asylum seeker tents... 

An email dated May 12, 2015 from Transfield site manager...said a team had made good progress on cleaning mould off the outside of tents in the family and single male accommodation areas. However, the email warned cleaning the insides of tents had "quite a few complications"..."looking at conducting a workshop...in the near future" to come up with a plan. He said issues to consider included: "messaging" and "behavioural management team involvement".

A former detention centre youth worker said asylum seekers had been consistently complaining about mould in their tents and management did not want to validate those concerns...

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Article
9 March 2018

Nauru mould problem was of ‘epic proportions’, microbiologist says

Author: Ben Doherty, The Guardian

24 February 2018

The microbiologist contracted to assess the mould in the Nauru immigration centre, [Dr Cameron Jones] says the contamination was “of epic proportions” and presented a serious health hazard to those in the camp, but that his report on the problem was covered up. Former staff...left with cognitive impairment and chronic lung infections after living and working in contaminated buildings...former teacher has said her career has been derailed by the ill-health she has suffered from her time on the island... 

The microbiologist...was contracted...in 2014 to assess the uncontrolled mould outbreak within the Australian-run Nauru regional processing centre, and to recommend ways to combat it. ... Camp managers seemed unwilling to adhere to international or Australian mould standards...The mould was a severe health hazard for those forced to live and work within the centre... The security regime was “extremely hostile” to [Jones'] presence... At least 330 refugees and asylum seekers, including 36 children, remain in mould-prone tents... 

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Article
8 March 2018

Nauru refugees, asylum seekers and staff exposed to 'highly toxic' mould

Author: Ben Doherty, The Guardian

23 February 2018

Four years after the Australian government was repeatedly warned the mould growing throughout Nauru’s regional processing centres was making people sick, refugee families, including young children, are still being forced to live under rotting canvas in Nauru. At least 330 refugees and asylum seekers, including 36 children, still live in mould-prone tents on Nauru. Some tents and work buildings have previously been found to be “highly toxic”, with the level of mould measured at up to 76 times the normal, safe level... A class action against the commonwealth government, for failing in its duty of care to those housed in its immigration centres, and those contracted to work there, is being considered by Australian law firms...

In December 2014, Biological Health Services (BHS) was commissioned by the then detention centre managers, Transfield Services (now Broadspectrum), to investigate the extent and hazards of the mould problem. The mould was everywhere throughout the centre and a “MAJOR risk to the health and safety of the occupants”, the BHS report said... [A] further report from Greencap in 2015, told the immigration department that Transfield’s “harm minimisation” approach would not work. Transfield’s plan to tackle the mould was “highly unlikely to adequately rectify and prevent reoccurrence of the extensive moisture and mould issues” and “lacked an understanding in the fundamentals of accepted best practices”...

As late as December 2016, the government conceded to the Australian National Audit Office “mould is a persistent issue at the Nauru RPC”... A Comcare spokesman said the agency had been monitoring mould issues at the Nauru RPC, and had made inspections in 2014, 2015, and 2017... and [stated] that "the most recent site inspection in August 2017 found no significant issues.”... A contractor who lived in a water-damaged and mould-affected building made a complaint to Comcare in 2016. Its investigation found “ongoing measures were in place to deal with the problem of mould”...

 

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