A senior staffer with immigration detention contractor Serco called a detainee a “known princess” in an email about the detainee’s complaints of racism and privacy violations by Serco officers.
The complaints were later dismissed — after being investigated by one of the two accused officers — because the detainee, Nauroze Anees, had made numerous complaints.
In an email to Serco’s senior manager of compliance and central services at Perth’s Yongah Hill detention centre, the investigating officer described Anees as “unhealthily fixated” on the other accused officer, and his allegations as “fictitious”.
The manager replied, encouraging the officer to throw out the complaint. “This detainee is a known ‘princess’ and wants to get everything his way,” the manager wrote. “It is important that we call out people who are trying to manipulate the system and our staff to their advantage.”
The officer wrote a report rejecting the complaint — but when it reached the general manager of Yongah Hill, it set off alarm bells. This manager ordered it be rewritten, flagging that it was written by one of the accused guards, and that it included the “known princess” email.
“The line ‘This detainee is a known “princess” and wants to get everything his way’ would undoubtedly come into question and could again cast doubt on the sincerity of the investigation,” the manager wrote.
Yet another manager then toned down the report, but did not alter its conclusion.
Anees told BuzzFeed News he was unsurprised but disappointed with the “princess” description, which he called a “derogatory slur”. He was concerned that the description would be on his file and used by the Australian government to make decisions about his potential release and visa application.
He later took his complaint to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC). In a statutory declaration signed in March 2019, he accused Serco of inappropriately accessing and disclosing his personal information.
In its first response to the OAIC claim, a Serco ethics and investigations officer denied the incident had ever happened. The letter called Anees a “persistent complainer” and pointed out that Anees had made 25 complaints in six months, none of which had been substantiated.
Serco handed over documents relating to Anees and the investigation to the OAIC, and redacted copies were given to Anees.
“A person doesn’t scream if he’s not hurt,” Anees told BuzzFeed News of his numerous complaints. He said that none of his complaints had been dealt with properly, and often it was more effective for him to raise a complaint on social media.
“I have no faith in Serco investigating my complaints with integrity,” he said. “The internal emails show they are more focused on covering up than actually investigating the complaint.”
In an incident the previous year, Anees had complained that a Serco officer had pressured him to withdraw a complaint he had made about other Serco officers. After the Commonwealth Ombudsman began to investigate, and the Department of Home Affairs and Australian Border Force became involved, the officer admitted that Anees’ complaint was true and that the comment he had made to Anees was not appropriate.
In a May 2019 letter, the OAIC made a “preliminary assessment” that Serco had provided insufficient evidence about what happened to contradict Anees’ statutory declaration and prove the incident did not occur. Serco launched a fresh investigation and again found against Anees.
This second report, provided to Anees in February, stated he was of “poor character” and dishonest, and called his credibility into question partly on the basis of his critical tweets. It also accused him of frequently and publicly airing his “unbalanced views”.
An accompanying document shows Serco monitors Anees’ tweets, which Anees said “creeped [him] out”.
Anees has been in detention for over three years, and has lived in Australia since 2007. His student visa was cancelled after he dropped out of university to care for his partner, and he was detained after serving three months in prison for low level offences.
On March 2, 2020 he won a victory in the Full Court of the Federal Court of Australia, which overturned a lower tribunal’s decision not to award him a partner visa. The Australian Human Rights Commission recently stated he had been arbitrarily detained. But he still does not have a visa and remains in detention.
Australian Border Force did not respond to a request for comment.