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Review into the 19 July 2013 Incident at the Nauru Offshore Processing Centre

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1. Executive Report

1.1 Background

On 19 July 2013 a serious incident, a riot, occurred at the Nauru Regional Processing Centre (Nauru RPC) resulting in the destruction of the majority of infrastructure. There were 543 transferees accommodated at the Nauru RPC at the time of the incident. It is estimated that the loss and damage from the incident was in excess of $60 million.

This review of the 19 July 2013 Nauru incident, was established under Terms of Reference (TOR) to determine exactly what the facts were, to make those facts available to any relevant authorities and to ensure that the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) gets clear recommendations on any systems improvements that can be made to help avoid similar incidents from happening in the future.
The Nauru RPC was established as a matter of urgency from August to September 2012.

This followed the former Australian Government’s agreement to the recommendations of the Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers (August 2012). The recommendations included reestablishing immigration facilities, including on Nauru, in the form of Regional Processing Centres. This formed part of a regional approach to help combat people smuggling and prevent asylum seekers risking their lives at sea. The Australian Government entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Government of Nauru regarding the operation of the Nauru RPC on 29 August 2012 (the MOU).

Establishing a regional processing centre on Nauru, another sovereign country, involved a significant level of complexity in implementing the required administrative arrangements. Further, the Nauru election in June 2013 contributed to the inability for both Australia and Nauru to have in place the administrative measures envisaged under the MOU to make rules and to provide powers in relation to security functions at Nauru RPC.

The Government of Nauru passed two pieces of legislation, the Refugees Convention Act 2012 and the Asylum Seekers (Regional Processing Centre) Act 2012. While the operation of the Nauru RPC was to be fully funded by the Australian government, the legislation provided for the processing of the Nauru RPC transferees to be conducted by the Government of Nauru.

Clause 11 of the MOU states, ‘The Commonwealth of Australia will make all efforts to ensure that all persons entering Nauru under this MOU will depart within as short a time as is reasonably necessary for the implementation of this MOU.’

An interim Joint Advisory Committee (iJAC) was established under the terms of the MOU in relation to the transfer and assessment of persons in Nauru. The iJAC was established to oversee the implementation and operation of the Nauru RPC. The committee is co-chaired by Australian and Nauru officials and members have expertise in a range of relevant disciplines.

The Department contracted three key service providers to assist in the operation of the Nauru RPC:

• Transfield Services for garrison, operational and maintenance services including asset management, transport, supplies and logistics and catering with a sub-contractor responsible for security services working in partnership with a local security company
• The Salvation Army for client welfare and engagement services including education, programs and activities, community engagement and religious services; and
• International Health and Medical Services (IHMS) for health and medical Services including doctors, nurses, psychologists, paramedics, counsellors and psychiatrists.

These service providers began work at the Nauru Regional Processing Centre on 5 September 2012. The first 20 asylum seeker transferees from Christmas Island arrived at Nauru on 14 September 2012 and were accommodated in tents.