Investigations launched into Manus clashes
Two investigations have been launched into violent clashes at Australia's asylum seeker detention centre on PNG's Manus Island, that left one asylum seeker dead and scores injured.
Australia and Papua New Guinea have both announced investigations into recent violence at the Manus Island detention centre that left one asylum seeker dead.
Over 70 asylum seekers have been treated for injuries after rioting and clashes on Sunday and Monday.
Three people were taken to Port Moresby for treatment, with one flown to Australia - apparently with a slit throat.
Jamie Tahana reports.
Most of the injured appeared to have head injuries said to be consistent with beatings, with witnesses accusing local police, but the police are blaming the camp's security firm, G4S. Amnesty International's Pacific Researcher, Kate Schuetze, says she understands the asylum seekers last week raised a number of questions with the centre management including the length of time it's taking to process claims and questions around their freedom.
KATE SCHUETZE: The response they got in a briefing on Sunday was that they will not get to Australia, that they could be stuck there for years in detention and that they will eventually be resettled in PNG. Understandably, people were quite frustrated by this response because it's part of an ongoing pattern of not giving them information.
Kate Schuetze says there were some minor skirmishes following the announcement, but it's not clear how things got out of hand on Monday. Our correspondent in Papua New Guinea, Todagia Kelola, says sources on Manus report the asylum seekers decided to jump over the centre's fence and were met by the local police. He says that the Iranian asylum seeker who died was bashed after he insulted them in Tok Pisin.
TODAGIA KELOLA: That language was taught to them by workers inside the Manus asylum centre. They started taunting them in swearing words to the security forces who were infuriated and then one or two of the policemen allegedly went in and apprehended that Iranian and because he was resisting and saying all sorts of things he was badly bashed up and as he was rushed to the Lorengau General Hospital he was pronounced dead.
Kate Schuetze says tensions have been escalating in the camp for so long that she's not surprised things got out of control.
KATE SCHUETZE: We reported last year that the policy is breaking people, it's destroying them mentally and psychologically. We're locking them up for an indefinite period of time, there's very little steps that have been taken to process the claims of the people that have been there. It is a process designed to break people and force them to go back to the countries they came from.
The Refugee Council of Australia agrees, saying the incident was a tragedy waiting to happen. Its chief executive, Paul Power, says it's a consequence of failed government policy by the two main political parties that knew what effects long-term detention would have on asylum seekers.
PAUL POWER: It has to confront the fact that it has known all along that policies which involve keeping large numbers of people locked up in a confined space with nothing to do, with no idea of what their future is going to involve, we all know that these events will result from that policy.
According to the Refugee Action Coalition, the dead man was a 24-year-old Faili Kurd from Iran. The Coalition's spokesperson, Ian Rintoul, says it is likely the man was killed in the grounds on the Manus base and he hadn't escaped the compound. Iran's official news agency is reporting the country's foreign ministry has summoned the Australian ambassador to explain the death. Australia's Immigration minister, Scott Morrison, says a government inquiry will be held into the clashes, to be headed by the secretary of the immigration department, Martin Bowles.
The PNG prime minister, Peter O'Neill, has also released a statement saying an inquiry by PNG police, defence and immigration officials is underway and illegal acts will be dealt with under PNG law. Both say they remain committed to the isolated detention camps. But both Kate Schuetze and Paul Power are calling for a full independent and impartial inquiry by an organisation like the Australian Human Rights Commission.
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