Serco responds to detention hotel claims

·3-min read

The company that guarded asylum seekers at a Brisbane hotel has defended its living conditions after the property was found in a filthy and chaotic state.

Serco helps the federal government run immigration detention sites including private hotels used to house asylum seekers brought to Australia for medical care.

The Kangaroo Point Central Hotel and Apartments was one of those sites until Friday, when the last of the long-term detainees living there were removed.

Federal authorities relocated 19 men after the hotel's owners reclaimed possession amid a dispute with their tenant.

The owners said their tenant did not have permission to turn the hotel into a de facto detention centre by renting rooms to Serco. When AAP toured the site this week it was in a chaotic state of disrepair.

The damage was worst in a four-storey accommodation tower, where additional locks had been bolted to security doors to prevent balcony access.

There were holes in walls, extensive damage to plaster and paint work - and kitchens, bathrooms and carpets were dirty and had obviously not been cleaned for some time.

Televisions and furniture was missing. Indoor furniture including bedside tables and chairs had been dragged into communal hallways and sit alongside oddly-located washing machines.

Some units had mattresses piled four-high on the floor, others had windows that had been screwed shut.

Matthew Allen, a director of one of two family trusts that own the property, estimates the total damage bill could amount to $1 million.

On Thursday, Serco said a condition report was done when it first began using rooms in 2019.

"When we were asked to leave, we made good to the same condition less reasonable wear and tear," a spokesman for Serco Australia said.

"We are focused on maintaining the health and safety of people in immigration detention facilities, including alternative places of detention."

Serco said the rooms it used were "regularly cleaned and maintained by the lessee and checked weekly".

"During this time there were regular visits by a range of people including legal representatives, health officials, detainee support groups and the Commonwealth Ombudsman," it said.

Serco was asked if it was responsible for installing additional locks on balcony doors and screwing windows shut.

It said: "We had certain specific requirements in order to accommodate immigration detainees under our contract as service provider to Australian Border Force. This included physical security standards, all of which were put in place by the lessee and remained in place after Serco left the Premises."

The Australian Border Force also said the property was returned "in a condition similar to how it was initially occupied, and subject to reasonable wear and tear".

It said all detainees, including those held at alternative places of detention, received good food, medical care, and clean, comfortable sleeping quarters, among other things.

ABF did not answer questions about the maximum number of detainees kept in rooms, and did not say if it was satisfied with Serco's oversight of the property.

AAP has sought comment from the tenant who leased the hotel but was told it could not comment on matters that involved the government.