16 Jan 2016

Removed workers from Nauru demand apology from Australia

10:16 am on 16 January 2016

Nine welfare workers deported from Nauru are demanding an apology from the government following another official report finding there was no basis for their removal from the island.

The Save the Children workers were abruptly sent home in 2014 after raising asylum seekers' concerns about sexual harassment from guards.

Then immigration minister Scott Morrison suggested the group had orchestrated a campaign to undermine the Australian government's offshore detention policy.

Now an internal immigration department report, released yesterday, says they should be offered compensation after finding no evidence they acted outside their duties at the Nauru detention centre.

But one of the workers, Natasha Blucher, told the ABC the group was more concerned about the fate of detainees who remain on Nauru.

"It's difficult for us to talk about monetary compensation in relation to ourselves and the harm perpetrated against us when the harm perpetrated against them is so much worse," she said.

The group has, however, appointed a lawyer to work through compensation with the Immigration Department.

Ms Blucher said she was "disappointed" there had been no apology from the Government despite two reports finding it had acted wrongly.

She also called on the Immigration Department to work with Nauru to reverse deportation orders made against the group, which remain in force.

Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young said the Government should promptly offer compensation to the group.

"The last thing we want to see is a court case dragged out at a further cost to taxpayers," Senator Hanson-Young told Saturday AM.

On Friday, Save the Children chief executive Paul Ronalds said an apology was owed.

"The report's findings make it clear, I think, that the staff involved deserve compensation, as does Save the Children for the cost its incurred in relation to this," he said.

"But I think more importantly, a full apology to both the staff impacted and Save the Children by the former minister and the department is entirely appropriate."

He said it was no surprise there was no evidence or information to dismiss the staff.

"We've said from the start that these were some of our most talented and hardest working staff and the idea that they would fabricate cases of abuse or encourage children to self harm was always absurd," Mr Ronalds said.

"Save the Children has spent many hundreds of thousands of dollars defending itself against allegations that the department's own report finds that there was never any evidence of reliable information on which to base the actions taken by the department.

"In fact it went further and found that the decision maker did not act in good faith."

A small group of Muslim refugees pray at sunset while other refugees (background) participate in a football match at a camp for the asylum seekers on the small island of Nauru, 20 September 2001.

Asylum seekers on Nauru Photo: AFP