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Evidence to sack Save the Children staff in question

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Claims that led to aid workers being sacked from posts at the Nauru immigration detention centre have been undermined in evidence to the Moss Inquiry leaked to Lateline.

A report into the allegations headed by former integrity commissioner Phillip Moss is expected to be released on Tuesday.

The accusations against Save the Children staff were based on an intelligence report to the immigration department compiled by Lee Mitchell from Wilson Security.

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It claimed workers had engaged in a broader campaign with external refugee advocates to cast doubt about Abbott government’s border protection policies.

Six staff were removed from Nauru and later nine Save the Children staff were sacked, the ABC reported.

Some of the allegations levelled at Save the Children were that staff members “encouraged asylum seekers to self harm”, coached them in protests and leaked information to the media, the ABC reported.

In testimony leaked to the ABC, Mr Mitchell told the inquiry evidence in the intelligence report may not survive a court test.

Mr Mitchell based his claims on previous operations manager Greg Lake’s report.

“I’m feeding back to Lake’s comments in July. He says he knows this goes on. Coaching absolutely does go on.”

He could not provide specific evidence asylum seekers were being coached to self-harm but was “75 per cent” sure the practice went on.

In a re-enactment aired on Lateline, Mr Mitchell responded to Moss questioning him on the self-harm allegations.

“Seventy-five per cent – it’s three quarters of the way to confidence, to full confidence,” he told the Inquiry, Lateline reported.

He admitted the allegations were not strong enough to stand up in court.

Separate allegations that the staffers leaked information to the media appeared to be dependent on a misunderstood tweet, the ABC reported.

Journalist Daniel Pye in Cambodia tweeted that information about Nauru came from “academics”.

While a link inside the tweet referred to an Al Jazeera story quoting Curtin University Professor Suvendrini Perera, Mr Mitchell understood the tweet to mean the Nauru Save the Children staff.

“He’s talking about academics working with refugees confirmed seven suicide attempts yesterday to me. Well, the only academics that work inside the centre are employed by Save the Children,” Mr Mitchell told the inquiry.

The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Mendez, concluded that there was substance to allegations Australia’s detention regime had violated asylum seekers’ human rights.

In three instances, Mr Mendez concluded that Australia had violated the Convention Against Torture.

These were the detention and deportation of 203 Sri Lankan asylum seekers back home; allegations relating to conditions at the detention centre including violence, indefinite detention and holding children; bills introduced in 2014 to change migration laws which are before the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee.

In response, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Australia was sick of being lectured by the UN.

Mr Mendez said the organisation treated all governments equally and Australia was not being singled out for criticism.

“I’m sorry that (Mr Abbott) considers what we do lecturing,” he said, adding he was simply doing his job.

 

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