Guards at Villawood detention centre treated deported startup founder like a 'second-class citizen'

The Disrupt team, with Chris Bailey on the left and Gary Elphick in the middle.

Chris Bailey, the British co-founder of the Muru-D startup Disrupt who was deported over the long weekend, was allegedly treated like a “second-class citizen” during his time at Villawood Detention Centre in Sydney.

Bailey’s business partner Gary Elphick told Business Insider that while the airport immigration officials were very respectful to his friend, he couldn’t say the same about the guards at Villawood.

“In the detention centre they treated him as a second-class citizen,” Elphick said.

“They spoke down and swore at him, took his phone, book and writing utensils off of him, which he was going to try and do some business brainstorming with to make the most of the time.”

(The taking of his writing utensils might have been justified. Elphick claimed someone was stabbed with a pen in the cell next to Bailey.)

He added that Bailey was denied phone calls and neither his partner or Elphick were allowed to contact him.

“I, his partner and his mum all called and were not given any information on his mental or physical state,” Elphick said.

And finally, on Bailey’s flight home, which Australian law requires him to pay for, immigration officials singled him out in front of everyone on the plane multiple times, which Bailey said made him feel “humiliated and disrespected”.

Bailey, who founded Disrupt with Gary Elphick, was originally arrested last week after returning to Australia from the USA, where he was trying to establish an American office and manufacturing partnerships for the business.

Australian Border Force officers questioned him on his return and Bailey was detained for allegedly lying about picking fruit to extend his working holiday visa. He was then kept at Villawood Immigration Detention Centre for two days before being sent back to the UK.

The duo admit Bailey was in the wrong and have accepted the consequences, but say that it’s “a sad day that he was forced into a corner to do so in order to grow a start-up”.

In a LinkedIn post, Elphick raised problems around the Turnbull government’s current immigration policy when it comes to small companies and the ideas boom. The financial turnover of Disrupt does not meet the government’s “business” criteria under the Migration Act, although it employs eight people. That means it does not qualify to sponsor highly skilled individuals on temporary work visas.

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection has been approached for comment.

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