Australia Govt's turnaround over timing of death prompts criticism
Australia's Immigration minister has admitted that a 23-year-old asylum seeker was killed inside the Manus detention centre.
Australia's Immigration minister is facing criticism over the timing of his admission that a 23-year-old asylum seeker's killing on Papua New Guinea's Manus Island happened inside the detention centre.
Scott Morrison made the admission late on Saturday night, a turnaround from his initial assertion that Reza Berati had left the centre during rioting last Monday.
Jamie Tahana reports.
On Tuesday, Scott Morrison told media assembled in Darwin that the 23-year-old asylum seeker Reza Berati was killed outside the detention centre after breaching its perimeter fence.
SCOTT MORRISON: I have no information that can confirm how the injuries took place. I do know in the case of the serious ones - particularly in the case of the deceased person - their injuries occurred, and the shot being fired, occurred outside the centre. We have built that complex in a way where most people are secure and most safe inside the centre. So if people choose to remove themselves from that centre then they're obviously putting themselves at a place of much greater risk. I can guarantee their safety when they remain in the centre and act cooperatively with those that are trying to provide them with support and accommodation.
However, media reports and witness statements suggested that local guards employed by the camp's security firm, G4S, had stormed the camp and attacked the detainees. Something G4S strongly denied. Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister, Peter O'Neill also told parliament last week that his police force and the people of Manus were not responsible.
PETER O'NEILL: Mr Speaker I want to say that police were called into the asylum centre only at the request of the management of the asylum centre and that the security personnel who were present at the asylum centre could not control the situation and as a result they were called in. The gunshots that were fired, again, were warning shots. They were not aimed at trying to do harm to any particular person.
But in a statement released at 9 o'clock on Saturday night, Scott Morrison announced that Mr Berati had in fact died inside the centre. At a press conference in Sydney yesterday, he defended the time it took to verify his facts, and the timing of his release on Saturday night.
SCOTT MORRISON: Information is rarely perfect so soon after the event. Any early reports are always qualified along these lines as my report on that morning was. The information I have now received casts sufficient doubt on the initial advice that I believe required me to make the further statement on this issue that I did last night in good faith. Earlier this week I noted that when people cooperate and conduct themselves within the centre then we are able to provide for their safety. I want to be very clear, also, that it is the policy of this government for the Manus Island processing centre to remain open. This government will not be intimidated into closing this centre, nor will we be intimidated into walking away from policies that are stopping the boats.
G4S also released a statement following Mr Morrison's turnaround, saying earlier statements about events on Manus are under review. It will not comment further as events are subject to enquiries. The opposition Labor Party has called for an inquiry, saying Mr Morrison has no idea what he's doing. The Green Party leader, Christine Milne, says he should resign, accusing him of repeatedly misleading the public. But speaking to the ABC yesterday, the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott stood by his minister, saying he was doing an outstanding job.
TONY ABBOTT: We don't want a wimp running border protection, you want someone who is strong, who is decent. Scott Morrison is both strong and decent.
But the clashes - and the government's response to them - are likely to come under further scrutiny this week as Parliament resumes in Canberra.
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