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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 May, 2003, 10:37 GMT 11:37 UK
Abuse claims hit Australian camp
Detainees scale a fence at Woomera, March, 2002
Woomera was condemned as inhumane
Australian police are investigating claims of fraud and child sex abuse at the notorious Woomera refugee camp.

Former employees told an Australian television programme that the Australian Correctional Management company (ACM), which ran the camp, lied to the government about staffing numbers to boost its profits, destroyed confidential records and mistreated inmates.

ACM, a subsidiary of an American prison company, was hired by Australian Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock to run Australia's seven detention centres.

Opposition parties and refugee groups have called on Mr Ruddock to resign.

ACM called the programme "misleading and highly inaccurate" and said it was examining its options.

Records 'destroyed'

According to former staff, senior management inflated staffing levels, while actual staff shortages left the centre difficult to control.

I have concern about the nature of the allegations made in the programme
Philip Ruddock, Australian immigration minister

"They would send in reports stating that we had the required number of staff when in fact we didn't... and quite often we were told at a local level to fudge the figures," former Woomera operations manager Allan Clifton told the Four Corners programme.

Staff told the programme a 12-year-old Iranian boy at the camp was sexually abused but he was denied medical attention and a report on the incident was destroyed by management.

They said a report on a drug overdose given to a patient by staff also disappeared.

Former employees are suing ACM for stress they said they suffered while working at the camp.

'Half-truths'

Mr Ruddock, the architect behind Australia's hardline policy of detaining all asylum seekers, said the claims would be investigated.

"I have concern about the nature of the allegations made in the programme and I want to test those against the contract that we have," he said.

The minister also said the allegations should be viewed in the light of disputes between disgruntled employees and management.

The company said the Australian Broadcasting Corporation programme was "littered with serious factual errors and half-truths".

During its lifetime, Woomera was condemned as inhumane by the United Nations and human rights groups.

The remote desert camp, about 1,800 kilometres (1,120 miles) west of Sydney, was finally closed last month.


SEE ALSO:
Australia rejects UN criticism on camps
01 Aug 02  |  Asia-Pacific
Australia's Pacific Solution
26 Sep 02  |  Correspondent


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