Last Sunday’s meeting with Immigration Minister Scott Morrison enraged detainees at the Manus Island asylum seeker detention centre in Papua New Guinea. Morrison reportedly announced that they would remain in limbo for good. Morrison, however, denies reports that he told the detainees they were not to be resettled in Papua New Guinea.
Thirty-five detainees tried to break out on Sunday but were rounded up by detention guards and PNG police. They clashed with the officers, smashed window panes, knocked down power poles, and breached security fences. Bunk beds and tents were also destroyed and 19 people sustained injuries.
Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition (RAC), said police used force “out of proportion” to contain the protestors. In the RAC website , he said “the number of broken hands and baton injuries indicate a use of force…. One asylum seeker has 70 stitches in his head. “ He is calling for an investigation.
Rintoul said that after the riot, they received reports that Manus Island locals have armed themselves with machetes, knives and guns while an insider fears sections of the perimeter fence have been torn down by locals. The detainees are growing increasingly anxious that they will be the victims of vigilante action.
There were also reports that local PNG G4S guards have pulled out of at least one compound and asylum seekers have been told that if there is any attack by the locals, G4S will withdraw totally.
The asylum seekers are fearful that there will be a repeat of the situation last October when they were left defenceless when G4S pulled out of the detention centre in the face of clashes between PNG army and PNG police. The RAC continued:
The imposition of the detention centre on Manus Island has created local tensions from the very start. The lack of transparency about resettlement has added to the tensions.
If those tensions are now turned on the asylum seekers themselves the responsibility will lie with the Australian government. The deal to establish a detention centre on Manus Island was always toxic.
The detention centre has shattered the peace on Manus Island. Peace will not be restored until the detention centre is closed. In the meantime Scott Morrison is responsible for the safety of the asylum seekers he has dumped on Manus Island.
Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott enforced Operation Sovereign Border after he won the election in September last year. It is a hardline policy to stop the boats carrying asylum seekers to Australia. He said the only way to avoid disturbances at detention centres was to ensure asylum seekers didn’t try to come to Australia by boat.
“If you come to Australia illegally by boat this is, I’m afraid, what happens to you. As far as this government is concerned the way is shut,” he told a local radio.
Meanwhile, Amnesty International released a new report, This is Breaking People: Human Rights Violations at Australia’s Asylum Seeker Processing Centre on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea, which uncovers the truth about Manus Island and the degrading conditions in which asylum seekers are forced to live.