Three more people will be transported to Port Moresby for treatment after riots in which one man was killed and 77 asylum seekers were injured at a detention centre on Manus Island.
The man who died suffered head injuries overnight outside the detention centre where security is the domain of PNG police.
Immigration Minister Scott Morrison says there is no suggestion PNG police shot at the asylum seekers, although he understood they fired shots on two occasions, at 11.20pm (PNG time) on Monday and 1am on Tuesday before order was restored.
“At this stage there were two occasions where our authorities reported back to us that shots were heard or reported to be fired by PNG police,” Mr Morrison told reporters in Canberra.
“But that in no way suggests in any way that those shots were fired at any individuals.”
Mr Morrison said a man with a skull fracture had been transferred to an Australian hospital for treatment.
“I am not about to disclose his location because I don’t think that’s going to assist with his treatment,” he said.
A man who was shot in the buttocks has been transferred to Port Moresby for treatment and three more injured men will follow.
Mr Morrison said most of the 77 injured suffered head injuries, with 12 still in a serious condition.
He said detention centre security guards were not armed with guns.
The minister said PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill had promised a thorough investigation and remained committed to the use of Manus Island for offshore processing.
Mr Morrison has promised to boost security on Manus with another 100 staff.
A “great tragedy”
Earlier in the day, Mr Morrison confirmed the death on Tuesday saying it was “a great tragedy” and extended his sympathies to the person’s family.
The cause of death was not immediately clear, although it is understood to have come from a head injury.
But the government had taken steps in recent weeks to increase security at the facility, having learned from similar violent incidents at detention sites on Nauru.
“On this occasion, the centre has not been destroyed, the centre will be able to resume operations,” he said.
The asylum seeker who died on the way to hospital had a head injury.
That death and most of the serious injuries happened outside the centre.
Mr Morrison said the suggestion that PNG police had entered the facility was incorrect and security contractor G4S would release a statement about that.
“There are all sorts of rumours that are put around in this environment,” he said.
“We don’t know what occurred outside the centre and that obviously will be the subject of an investigation into that person’s death.”
Mr Morrison said there had been a rolling series of protests, starting a few weeks ago, with largely peaceful demonstrations culminating in the violence of the last two nights.
“They will have frustrations about being in a centre they don’t wish to be in because they wanted a very different outcome than being in either Manus Island or Nauru,” he said.
“There will be those who will seek to take down our policies, to take down our processing centres, to try and destroy the regime we have put in place.”
The minister said the government’s resolve in sticking to its border protection policies was “absolute”.
He said hundreds of asylum seekers died at sea before the Abbott government came into power.
“The government’s resolve when it comes to our policies is very clear and that resolve won’t break,” he said.
PNG sends investigators
Meanwhile Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has sent a delegation to Manus Island to investigate the break-out
The delegation is headed by chief migration officer, Mataio Rabura, to the remote province located just two degrees from the equator.
In August last year a leaked PNG government memo written by Mr Rabura raised doubts about PNG’s capability to house up to 3000 asylum seekers under a deal announced by the previous Labor government.
Mr Rabura at the time denied criticising the plan, but was raising questions about administration and implementation issues.
“The concerns I raised with (foreign minister Rimbink) Pato were discussed between himself and (Australian Immigration Minister) Tony Burke and have since been resolved,” he said at the time.
“I am happy with the outcome that is now guiding implementation of the agreement.”
Greens call for Manus Island to be closed
Australian Greens leader Christine Milne is demanding Australian’s Manus Island detention centre be immediately closed following the death of an asylum seeker.
Senator Milne also accused the government of “bragging” about poor conditions at the Papua New Guinea-based facility, which was the scene of a perimeter breach on Monday night.
“This is exactly what has been threatened in what has become Australia’s gulag,” she told reporters in Hobart.
Immigration minister Scott Morrison needed to provide a full explanation.
“Ministerial responsibility has to mean something and Scott Morrison has to stop hiding,” Senator Milne said.
“It is craven and cowardly for him to constantly refuse to answer questions when it suits him and now try and pass this off as something that the PNG authorities will have to deal with.
“He has to deal with it, he’s the minister, he’s been bragging about the conditions in these detention centres.”