Friends of Refugees

A U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program Watchdog Group

Australian report reveals further details about unscrupulous resettlement contractor

Posted by Christopher Coen on May 23, 2011

ABC Newcastle
reports that the Australian federal government has now released an investigative report about a refugee resettlement contractor’s neglect and abuse of refugees in Newcastle, in the Australian state of New South Whales. The government has now called in police to investigate the horrendous, substandard — albeit expensive — housing that the contractor placed Sudanese and Congolese refugees into. The Immigration Minister Chris Bowen has also ordered an audit of refugee housing across the country

The Immigration Minister says New South Wales police have been called in to investigate some problems with services provided to refugees in the Newcastle area.

Chris Bowen has released a report into the housing for refugees in the area and says it does not make for pretty reading.

He says some refugees had received substandard services including accommodation with no hot water, holes in the roof and window panes missing in a bedroom.

“The report identifies some instances of substandard housing, rental charges not necessarily related to market conditions, inappropriate charges for property damage, poor quality household goods and identifies that there have been less than healthy relations between service providers and local community groups,” he said.

“I have instructed my department to undertake an immediate action in relation to the findings of the report.”

He says he has ordered an audit of refugee housing across the country because he needs to be reassured it is up to standard… Read more here

This case amazes me as I’ve investigated, read reports about, and seen dozens of similar cases in the US, with refugee resettlement agencies placing refugees in deplorable housing, and never once did the government oversight agency (the Admissions Office in the State Dept’s Bureau of PRM) ever call in police to investigate. Nor was any oversight report made available immediately, as the Australian government has done in this case. Media organizations in the US have had to sue the State Dept. simply to abide by the law – the Freedom of Information Act – and release documents.

It seems like the US has a lot to learn from Australia. I’m ashamed of our government’s oversight of our national refugee resettlement program, in which they have left fundamental problems of accountability and oversight linger for decades.

***UPDATE*** — May 24, 2011 – Calls for Australian refugee contractor to be stripped of contract. Sister Diana Santleben says investigation report left out significant details.

***UPDATE*** — May 24, 2011Australian refugee resettlement contractor accused of stealing from refugees

***UPDATE*** — May 26, 2011 – Radio interview of whistle-blower Sister Diana Santleben and Australian Immigration Minister Chris Bowen.

2 Responses to “Australian report reveals further details about unscrupulous resettlement contractor”

  1. Mary said

    Love to see that here.

    My favorite is charging refugees high rent for dumps, they move, but never get their security deposit back. Around and around it goes, while the slum lord makes a mint.

    • That’s been common at the refugee resettlement agencies I have monitored, and the problem is also often noted in the State Dept. monitoring inspections (see tab at top of our main web page). A related problem is refugee resettlement agencies not equipping refugees, or adequately assisting them with, methods and procedures for requesting maintenance, keeping copies of leases, understanding the Move-in checklist (make sure every bit of damage and uncleanliness is noted, and keep a copy) and the Move-out checklist (never sign any Move-out checklist that has inaccuracies, and take extensive photos of everything upon move-out), and understanding tenant rights laws. Resettlement agencies should periodically visit refugees at home to make sure they have understood apartment cleaning procedures, use modern appliances, food storage, etc. (Orientation should have adequately covered each of these topics, and repetition is a fundamental component of any teaching.) The “home home visit” required by the State Dept. resettlement contracts is intended as a “minimum” level of services, not a goal.

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