Australian government releases report into Manus violence
The Australian government has released a report into fatal violence at its Manus Island detention centre, but it's been promptly rejected by some.
An Australian government report into fatal violence at the Manus Island asylum seeker detention centre in Papua New Guinea, has identified anger and frustration at Australia's resettlement plans as the reason for the violent protests.
But as Jamie Tahana reports, it has not been well received by some, with critics labelling it a whitewash that tries to exonerate the government of its responsibility.
The former secretary of the Attorney-General's office, Robert Cornall was commissioned by Immigration Minister Scott Morrison to "find out what happened" after two nights of clashes in February that injured dozens of asylum seekers and killed 23-year-old Reza Barati. In releasing the report on Monday Mr Morrison says asylum seekers were angry and frustrated at the government's resettlement plans and blamed rumours that had spread around the camp.
SCOTT MORRISON: There was a buildup of events that began particularly around Australia Day where there was an expectation based on rumour that there was supposed to be some form of amnesty that would take place on Australia Day. There reports were obviously false and had no basis to them whatsoever.
The report says a meeting was held about asylum seekers' claims on the 16th of February, where they were told Australia's plans weren't changing. After hearing this, some asylum seekers to began to protest violently. Guards employed by the camp's then security firm, G4S, entered the centre at this point and caused physical injuries and damaged property.
The report alleges one asylum seeker had his neck slashed from behind by a PNG national G4S guard. Eight asylum seekers were arrested and charged by police as a result of the Sunday protest, but the report does not say whether the G4S guard was charged.On Monday, they protested again, damaging property and breaching the walls of one of the compounds, after which the PNG police mobile squad charged into the centre, firing tear gas and live rounds.The report says PNG nationals, expatriates and police dragged some asylum seekers outside to beat them. It was on this night that Mr Barati was killed and dozens of others were seriously wounded.
Scott Morrison says a worker at the centre, employed by the Salvation Army, led the attack on Mr Barati.
In a statement, The Salvation Army says it's inappropriate to comment while PNG police are still investigating the allegations, but it did acknowledge the report's findings.
At the time of the alleged incident all Salvation Army personnel had been formally evacuated from the centre in accordance with security protocols. The Salvation Army condemns any such behaviour and to the extent that any criminal actions as alleged are ultimately found by the PNG authorities to have occurred, they were not done with the knowledge or authority of the Salvation Army.
However, Scott Morrison says none of this would have happened and Mr Barati would still be alive if the asylum seekers had not started the protests.
SCOTT MORRISON: There was organised protest activity and I think there was intelligence suggesting there would be a violent confrontation potentially involving weapons and threats to individuals, now that is the context of the state of the security organisations that were involved that night. So there would have been no incident that night had there been no protests, I think that's clear to say.
But the Immigration spokesperson for the Australian Green Party, Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, says this is a clear instance of Scott Morrison victim-blaming, in attempt to divert blame from himself.
SARAH HANSON-YOUNG: This young man brutally beaten to death inside an immigration detention centre, at the hands of people employed and paid for by the Australian Government, and all we get from Minister Morrison is pointing the finger of blame at everybody but himself and his own department.
The report makes 13 recommendations, many relating to management at the centre, and how better to respond should another incident occur. But it also recommends improving the relationship between the new security and welfare contractor, Transfield Services and the asylum seekers, as well as better communication and welfare.
All of the recommendations have been accepted by Canberra, which has replaced fencing and installed more CCTV cameras, among other security measures. But a spokesperson for the refugee action coalition, Ian Rintoul, says it's a whitewash that ignores the actions of security guards and PNG police, instead blaming asylum seekers.
IAN RINTOUL: It ends up with a finding that the threat, in terms of security, is with the asylum seekers. All the recommendations and all the concerns is to increase the size of the fences, to put cameras in place in order to suppress protest and suppress what they see as a threat coming from the asylum seekers. Ultimately the report says nothing about where the real threat on Manus Island lies and that's with the security staff.
The report and witness statements from the review have been handed over to PNG police for investigation, but Ian Rintoul says this puts asylum seekers in danger of reprisal attacks from the police.
To embed this content on your own webpage, cut and paste the following: