An Iranian Muslim detainee is dead and five more have been airlifted off Manus Island for medical treatment after two nights of riots at the detention centre left nearly 80 people injured and Australia’s newly restrictive refugee policy under renewed attack.
Immigration Minister Scott Morrison faced media twice on Tuesday. “This is a tragedy but this was a very dangerous situation where people decide to protest in a very violent way,” Mr Morrison said. “The tension is not a surprise and the tension will remain because of the nature of where people are and where they don’t want to be.” “If you behave in an unruly way and in a disorderly way then you subject yourself to the response of law enforcement,” he said.
The Australian (h/t Natasha H) PAPUA New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has offered a personal assurance to Tony Abbott about the future of the Manus Island detention centre after 24 hours of rolling violence left one asylum-seeker dead, another critically injured and a third with gunshot wounds.
One hundred additional security officers were last night on standby, ready to be flown to PNG, after the most serious riot in an Australian-run detention centre. Tensions were contained last night after riots left 77 asylum-seekers injured, 12 of them seriously.
Five asylum-seekers have been evacuated off the island for medical treatment, one of whom was urgently transferred to an Australian hospital, apparently suffering critical head injuries.
Immigration Minister Scott Morrison confirmed an asylum-seeker was dead after receiving head injuries, apparently during a confrontation with local police. Another was shot in the buttock and was flown to Port Moresby for medical treatment. “This is a very unfortunate incident, this is a tragic incident,” Mr Morrison said. He refused to speculate on how the man, who was understood to be an Iranian asylum-seeker, died.
Privately, however, government sources said there was little doubt the man was killed by the PNG Police. The incident prompted a fresh outbreak of political skirmishing, with opposition immigration spokesman Richard Marles accusing the Coalition of losing control of the Manus centre, which was set up by the Rudd government.
The scale of the violence prompted the PNG government to fly a top-level team to Manus yesterday, and two inquiries — one by the PNG government and the other by Immigration Department head Martin Bowles — were last night underway.
The team comprised chief migration officer Mataio Rabura and senior police and defence officers. They held meetings with all groups involved in the situation, and dispatched a rapid report on their interim findings to the office of Mr O’Neill in Port Moresby.
In a statement, Mr O’Neill said both Australia and PNG “agree with the measures taken to address this situation”. “Preliminary investigations suggest that less than 50 per cent of the 1400 asylum-seekers at the centre were involved in the disturbances,” Mr O’Neill said. The riot was the culmination of a series of “rolling protests” that began on Sunday night when the 1340 asylum-seekers held on Manus Island were told they had no chance of resettlement in Australia.
The altercations started when asylum-seekers — many of whom have now been held in the centre for months — began taunting police and G4S security guards. They called out insulting messages to the police and guards in Pidgin, which they have learned during their detention.
Then, on Monday night, asylum-seekers began another protest, demanding detainees locked up by PNG police the night before be released. At about 9.45pm, detainees pushed down internal fences separating the compounds. From there, they pushed down external fences and moved on to local roads.
Staff from private security contractor G4S, who run the centre, used shields to try to push asylum-seekers back into the centre. “The incident escalated quickly with several hundred transferees involved,” Mr Morrison said.