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Manus riots ‘foreseeable’

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The violence at the Manus Island detention centre in February that resulted in the death of an Iranian asylum seeker was “eminently foreseeable” according to a Senate committee report.

The committee, dominated by Labor and Greens senators, recommended the Government pay compensation to the victims, although that has been rejected by Coalition MPs on the committee.

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The Senate’s Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee today released its report into the incidents that led to the death of 23-year-old Iranian man Reza Barati.

The committee has recommended compensation be paid to the Barati family.

Around 70 asylum seekers were injured, some seriously, in what the Government described as a “disturbance” on Manus Island.

The committee blamed the vexed process for assessing asylum claims and a “massive influx” of single adult males to the centre after Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd announced the offshore-resettlement policy.

“The centre was transformed from a mixed facility into a single adult males facility and experienced a massive influx of new transferees, reaching more than double the initial intended capacity of the centre in the space of approximately 12 weeks,” the report said.

It also found the Government “failed in its duty” to protect the asylum seekers and that there were violations of human rights that warranted compensation for Mr Barati’s family and to those who were injured.

The committee was also scathing of Immigration Minister Scott Morrison, saying he had sought to unfairly apportion blame to the asylum seekers by giving the impression the events occurred outside the centre and that PNG police were not involved in the violence.

“The minister should have exercised greater care while events were still unclear before apportioning blame,” it said.

The inquiry heard evidence that G4S, responsible for security at the centre, told the immigration department the morning after the riots that PNG police had entered the centre.

Yet it took Mr Morrison three-and-a-half days to correct the record by acknowledging the riotous behaviour and subsequent actions to restore order at the centre took place within the centre, the committee noted.

Government senators said there had been significant upgrades to the centre’s infrastructure and operations following a review of the riots.

The committee was unable to inspect the detention centre or talk to detainees because Senate committees don’t have powers to conduct proceedings outside Australia.

The inquiry considered evidence from centre staff whistleblowers and G4S management, the Salvation Army, immigration department and human rights advocates.


* Australia should assist PNG authorities with ongoing investigations and take witness statements from people now in Australia.

* The Australian government acknowledge its responsibility to protect the human rights of asylum seekers at the Manus Island detention centre.

* Compensation be paid to injured asylum seekers and the provision of adequate health care, mental health services rehabilitation and independent legal advice.

* That UN representatives, lawyers, journalists and the Australian Human Rights Commission be allowed to access the detention centre.

* Improved training for service provider staff.

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