An Iranian man is dead and five asylum seekers have been airlifted off Manus Island for medical treatment after two nights of riots at the detention centre left nearly 80 people injured and Australia’s refugee policy under renewed attack.
The Refugee Action Coalition reported on Tuesday night there was more trouble at the centre, with claims Manus locals had entered the facility and were attacking asylum seekers.
One hundred extra security staff are on standby for deployment as tensions remain high following Monday night’s chaos, which resulted in 77 asylum seekers suffering mostly head injuries.
An asylum seeker with a fractured skull has been sent to an unnamed Australian hospital.
If you behave in an unruly way and in a disorderly way then you subject yourself to the response of law enforcement.
Another who was shot in the buttocks has been transferred to Port Moresby for treatment, and three more injured men will follow.
Immigration Minister Scott Morrison faced media twice on Tuesday to dispel “wild stories” circulating.
“This is a tragedy but this was a very dangerous situation where people decide to protest in a very violent way and to take themselves outside the centre and place themselves at great risk,” Mr Morrison said.
“The tension is not a surprise and the tension will remain because of the nature of where people are and where they don’t want to be.”
A series of rolling protests started a few weeks ago with mostly peaceful demonstrations and culminated in the violence of the past two nights, Mr Morrison said.
“If you behave in an unruly way and in a disorderly way then you subject yourself to the response of law enforcement,” he said.
PNG authorities are investigating the death, and Australian Immigration Department secretary Martin Bowles will also conduct a full review into the incident.
The PNG government said the individual was an Iranian who died in hospital from head injuries.
Mr Morrison hosed down claims that PNG police fired shots directly at asylum seekers, although he confirmed reports of gunfire at 11.20pm on Monday and 1am on Tuesday.
He could not confirm reports on the ground that local people had been involved in the fight and had been possibly armed with machetes.
Detention security provider G4S said asylum seekers broke through the perimeter fence after protesting for two days and rejected claims that locals had broken into the facility and attacked the residents.
“Claims that the transferees breached the fence following internal attacks on them by local residents are unfounded,” it said in a statement.
“A number of transferees were injured after they breached the perimeter fence and the matter became a law enforcement issue for PNG authorities.”
Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his PNG counterpart, Peter O’Neill, discussed the incident on Tuesday.
Mr O’Neill said preliminary investigations suggested less than 50 per cent of the 1400 asylum seekers were involved, and he had sent a delegation to Manus Island to investigate the breakout.
“The situation at the centre now appears stable and under control,” Mr O’Neill said on Tuesday afternoon.
He reassured Mr Abbott his government is committed to the resettlement program.
Australian Greens leader Christine Milne is demanding the detention centre be immediately closed, describing the facility as a gulag.
“Ministerial responsibility has to mean something and Scott Morrison has to stop hiding,” Ms Milne said.
The Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) said the death and injuries was an “appalling tragedy and a failure of Australian government policy”.
Council chief executive officer Paul Power called on the government to abandon offshore processing and resume prompt processing of refugee claims while asylum seekers were in the community.
HOW THE RIOTS UNFOLDED ON MANUS ISLAND
· 35 people break out of detention centre compound, break bunk beds, clash with security
· 19 treated for injuries
· Eight arrested by PNG police
· Demonstration started in Oscar compound with 50-70 people chanting
· 9.45pm (PNG time) – demonstration flared again with internal fences pushed down
· Quickly escalated to involve several hundred people
· Perimeter fences pushed down and people moved from centre to nearby road
· G4S staff, who do not have guns, used shields to push back protesters to allow evacuation of injured people
· 11.20pm – PNG police reportedly fired shots
· 12am – G4S staff withdrew to internal perimeter and PNG police intervened with protesters who had left centre compound
· 1am – PNG police reportedly fired more shots
· 2am – order restored
· One asylum seeker died from a head injury
· 77 asylum seekers injured, mostly head injuries
· 12 remain in serious condition
· One shot in buttocks already receiving treatment in Port Moresby, won’t be brought to Australia
· One critically injured with skull fracture is in Australian hospital
· Three more positioned for medivac to Port Moresby
(SOURCE: Immigration Minister Scott Morrison)