Skip to main content

Ferrovial – the hospital privateer behind Nauru asylum-seekers’ misery

by Solomon Hughes

THANKS to privatisation of government services, the firm that owns and runs Heathrow airport also makes a profit helping run Australia’s refugee detention centres, which are based on remote islands and subject of many complaints about abuse.

The link is so strong that one of Heathrow’s directors is also a director of the firm profiting from refugee misery.

Privatisation means that the Spanish firm behind the Australian asylum-seekers’ misery also helps run hospitals, schools and council services throughout Britain.

Again, this link is so strong that there are directors who run the British and Australian firms at the same time.

Heathrow is owned and operated by Ferrovial, a Spanish multinational. Ferrovial was founded as a railway company by Rafael Del Pino Snr. The Del Pino Family still have a big stake in the firm, which is run by his son, Rafael Del Pino Jnr.

The long wave of privatisation means that industrial firms like Ferrovial have been drawn into lucrative “services” contracts, running formerly state assets or public services.

Ferrovial’s big foothold in Britain is Heathrow, which it bought in 2006.

However, Ferrovial has been hungry for services contracts around the world. Earlier this year it took over an Australian services corporation called Broadspectrum.

This Australian firm has some much less glamorous contracts than Heathrow.

It is the main contractor operating some immigration detention centres for the Australian government that have been denounced as illegal sinks of abuse and misery.

The relationship between Heathrow and Broadspectrum is not a distant one.

Ferrovial’s man Fidel Lopez is chief executive of Broadspectrum. He is also a director of Heathrow.

As well as running Heathrow, Ferrovial runs many public services in Britain, because it owns privatisation specialist Amey.

Thanks to the sell-offs and contracting out, Amey cleans and maintains hospitals and schools and all kinds of local council services up and down Britain.

The relationship between Broadspectrum and Amey is even closer. Santiago Olivares and Alfredo Garcia Lopez are both simultaneously directors of Broadspectrum and Amey. Broadspectrum chief executive Fidel Lopez was also previously an Amey director.

Broadspectrum is central to the Australian government’s brutal “Pacific solution” for asylum-seekers: no person who arrives in the country by boat seeking asylum can ever settle in Australia.

Instead, anyone who arrives by boat is forcibly taken to offshore “refugee processing centres” in the Pacific — one on Nauru Island and the other on Manus Island, part of Papua New Guinea.

Amnesty International has called these “islands of despair,” where asylum-seekers are left isolated in grim, prison-like conditions that have bred self-harm, violent crime, abuse and riots.

Broadspectrum has contracts for what it calls “providing garrison and welfare services at the Department of Immigration and Border Protection’s offshore processing centres on Nauru and Manus” — it is paid to run these miserable island prisons, where asylum-seekers are stuck in hot vinyl tents with regular searches, limited cleaning facilities and filthy toilets.

Broadspectrum subcontracted another firm, Wilson Security, to guard the asylum-seekers it was paid to house.

Wilson was accused of handcuffing children and assaulting inmates. There have been many protests against Broadspectrum’s involvement with Manus and Nauru detention centres in Australia.

In April, the Supreme Court of Papua New Guinea ordered than the Manus centre on its soil should be closed because of the “unconstitutional and illegal detention of the asylum-seekers” on the island.

So Broadspectrum profits from the despair and illegal detention of asylum-seekers, while its sister firms run Heathrow along with British hospital and school services.

This is what privatisation has done — turned everyone from patients to schoolkids to maltreated asylum-seekers into profitable opportunities.

Torygraph flummoxed by Trump

The election of Donald Trump as US president has thrown some of the Tory press into confusion.

The Telegraph has been pushing harder and harder to the right. But it seems genuinely nervous about a US president who is to the right even of a Telegraph editorial.

Spouting off in the press is one thing, but this is a man with his hands on the levers of power — including the nuclear button. And the Telegraph is nervous.

The paper seems to recognise how bad Team Trump is, in particular the “nasty edge” of his senior counsellor and boss of extreme right website Breitbart, Steve Bannon.

According to the Telegraph, Bannon is variously “a provocateur whose ‘alt-right’ web forum is a haven for white supremacists and anti-semites” and “a street brawler.”

It notes that “many former employees of Breitbart News are afraid of Steve Bannon.”

This is a big turnaround from a Telegraph that, when it was politically convenient, treated Bannon’s Brietbart as a respectable source.

This May the Telegraph reported, with a straight face, a Breitbart tale that Hamas was issuing statements publicly backing Jeremy Corbyn.

According to the Breitbart story promoted on the pages of the Telegraph, a Hamas spokesperson called Corbyn’s election a “painful hit on the zionist enemy.”

Breitbart has a long history of fake stories that fall apart.

The Corbyn/Hamas claim, like many Breitbart stories, looked like a ropey tale and soon disintegrated: the Breitbart story was written by its man Aaron Klein, author of one book revealing Barack Obama was “the Manchurian president” with “ties to communists, socialists and other anti-American extremists,” and another book that “reveal[s] the existence of a powerful Marxist-socialist bloc in [the US] Congress.”

So he seems like a man with a colourful imagination rather than a reliable source. The Hamas story referred to a Maoist-sounding but inaccurate “Chairman Corbyn.”

It was denied by Hamas. But despite the obvious flashing warning lights and dodgy Breitbart provenance, the Telegraph reproduced the tale in full, and never reported the subsequent denial.

When it comes to dubious knocking copy, the Telegraph seems happy with stories from a “haven for white supremacists and anti-semites” like Breitbart.

But it seems less enthusiastic about this crew actually running the US.

We need you support to keep running. If you like what you read please donate by clicking here


We're a reader-owned co-operative, which means you can become part of the paper too by buying shares in the People’s Press Printing Society.

Become a supporter

Fighting fund

You've Raised:£ 14,354
We need:£ 3,646
5 Days remaining
Donate today