Walmart has been accused of using its own employees to target asylum seekers and asylum seekers on its Australian payrolls, with many of those targeted allegedly being threatened with deportation.
The Guardian has been told the practice was carried out in 2014, with asylum seekers allegedly receiving threatening emails or phone calls.
“The allegations were not limited to one organisation,” an unnamed source told the Guardian.
“There were many of them.
They were not isolated incidents.”
The alleged harassment was allegedly carried out by one of Walmart’s Australia employees, identified as Mr B. “This is a company with a strong history of supporting asylum seekers,” the source said.
“We are not going to hide behind anonymous threats.
This was happening everywhere.
It’s not just on the front lines of the border.”
Mr B is alleged to have threatened asylum seekers with deportation if they did not comply with the company’s orders.
“He was trying to instil fear in asylum seekers by telling them he was going to put them in the back of a van,” the alleged source said of the alleged threats.
“If someone came to him and said they were an Australian citizen, he would have said ‘I can’t deport you’.” Walmart Australia has denied the allegations, saying the alleged actions are “absolutely wrong”. “
“We have no record of such behaviour and have taken this matter very seriously,” a spokesperson told the ABC. “
If someone came to him and said they were an Australian citizen, he would have said ‘I can’t deport you’.” Walmart Australia has denied the allegations, saying the alleged actions are “absolutely wrong”.
“We have no record of such behaviour and have taken this matter very seriously,” a spokesperson told the ABC.
“In particular, we have no records of any employee of Walmart Australia engaging in such conduct.”
Walmart has previously acknowledged using its Australian workforce to target refugees in the past, with the former national secretary for immigration, Chris Bowen, admitting that the company had been targeting refugees in a “back door” process.
In February, a report by the ABC’s The World at One found that Walmart employees were instructed to send a list of asylum seekers they thought were likely to be deported to their families, often at the instigation of the company.
“Our Australian colleagues in the immigration department and their overseas counterparts have been instructed by Walmart Australia to conduct this activity for a number of years,” Walmart Australia said in a statement to The World At One.
“At no time did we have any suggestion that any of our employees were involved in this activity.”
Mr Bowen, who was the national secretary of immigration in the previous Labor government, has since resigned from the company, while the ABC has also been unable to reach him for comment.
“These are serious allegations,” Mr Bowen said in the statement.
“They have nothing to do with me or the company.”
Walmart Australia also denied the claims that the abuse involved threatening employees with deportation, saying it was the responsibility of their employer.
“Walmart Australia does not engage in any kind of back door activity to seek out asylum seekers.
As part of the immigration compliance process, our staff work closely with our local immigration department, and in most cases are directed to respond to a specific immigration enquiry, which is then reported back to our employer,” the company said in its statement.
It added that “in most cases, asylum seekers have already been in Australia for years and will have been in the country for many years”.
“Our team members work alongside Australian Border Force and other immigration enforcement partners, and are fully prepared to provide advice to the appropriate authorities, including those in our local community,” Walmart said.
The company’s spokesperson also said that the alleged abuse of asylum seeker workers did not involve a threat of deportation, but rather an attempt to “re-engage in a ‘back door’ activity”.
The ABC has spoken to several asylum seekers who were targeted by the alleged Walmart employees.
“Some of them were told to call police,” one of those interviewed told the news outlet.
“One of the threats was that they would be sent to the police station, that they wouldn’t be able to leave, that there would be a search.”