19 Jan 2015

PNG government downplays Manus protest

3:07 pm on 19 January 2015

Papua New Guinea's Minister for Foreign Affairs and Immigration denies claims that security personnel have tried to forcibly end the ongoing protest by asylum seekers at Australia's Manus Regional Processing Centre.

Asylum seekers in Manus Island centre protesting  against resettlement plans

Asylum seekers in Manus Island centre protesting against resettlement plans Photo: Supplied by Refugee Action Coalition

Rimbink Pato says the tension within some of the compounds at the centre is being managed by Australian and PNG government officials, and service providers.

Refugee advocates say riot officers with security firm Transfield raided a compound early on Sunday seizing leaders of the protest in which hundreds of men are on hunger or water strike.

The asylum seekers are demanding a halt to the scheduled transfer of 50 male detainees to temporary, insecure housing in Lorengau, the Manus capital.

However, Mr Pato claims those instigating the protest are relatively few in number, and are being encouraged by misleading activists in Australia.

The minister says despite claims by agitator groups in Australia, at no time have police been called upon to enter the facility nor have security personnel tried to end the protest through physical confrontation.

Mr Pato adds that as part of the centre management's duty of care, security officers did accompany workers into the compound last week to enable staff to carry out their jobs.

He says cases of self-harm are being investigated by medical personnel and appropriate action is being offered to the individuals concerned.

Mr Pato says he hopes that the operators of the facility are able to bring about an end to the protest through dialogue.

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