• An undated photo obtained from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection on February 18, 2014 shows the interior of a tent in the Manus Island detention facility. (AAP)
Manus Island detainees say PNG local staff have been prevented from re-entering the facility after threats of further violence, including throat-slitting gestures.
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11 Mar 2014 - 4:21 PM  UPDATED 11 Mar 2014 - 11:31 PM

<p>Manus Island detainees say they are being threatened with violence as food shortages strike, with some asylum seekers forced to skip meals amid deteriorating conditions.</p><p>Detainees say a number of local contractors, including caterers and other support staff, have been banned by management from re-entering the camp following threats and intimidation, such as throat-slitting gestures.</p><p>Tensions between detainees and Papua New Guinea contractors have remained high since the riot of February 17, which left 77 asylum seekers injured and one dead.</p><p>Staffing shortfalls have forced detainees to draw up their own impromptu roster of duties for cleaning and odd tasks, as management continues to keep local employees locked out.</p><p>“We serve the food ourselves, we clean the dining hall ourselves, we clean the yard ourselves, and we organise everything ourselves,” explains one asylum seeker in a phone call.</p><p>“But we are not supposed to do everything ourselves.”</p><p>[[{"fid":"168690","view_mode":"single","type":"media","attributes":{"alt":"Detainees have told SBS they are carrying out a number of duties previously performed by Papua New Guinea staff. This roster reads &#039;kitchen grounds, toilets, showers and laundry.&#039; ","title":"Detainees have told SBS they are carrying out a number of duties previously performed by Papua New Guinea staff. This roster reads &#039;kitchen grounds, toilets, showers and laundry.&#039; ","class":"media-element file-single"}}]]</p><p>In a message via Facebook, another asylum seeker states: “… they are forcing us to clean the toilets, bathrooms, yard and work in the kitchen, and threat (sic) us that: if you don’t do that, we will return the locals back, and the consequences will be yours.”</p><p>Detainees also say they are being forced to eat poor quality food since local staff stopped catering duties amid the clamp down.</p><p>It is alleged food is now distributed by Australian staff from trucks and there are complaints of shortages, as well as asylum seekers suffering nausea and missing meals.</p><p>“Everyone has got lots of lots of stomach problems, and (management’s) excuse is: because there is no local staff, the food is bad!” writes one asylum seeker via Facebook.</p><p>“We are scared, and shocked, and after trauma there’s lots of side effects for, and lots of mental health issues … people aren’t sleeping regularly.</p><p>“I can’t sleep. We are moaning and groaning during the sleep and (having) nightmares and suddenly wake up.”</p><p>Speaking on the phone, another asylum seeker told an advocate:</p><p>“Please don’t leave us alone. We need your help. It’s a really bad situation here.”</p><p>Another detainee repeatedly requested humanitarian assistance on Manus Island:</p><p>“We ran away from our countries because of the danger that threatened us, and no we have another problem here … out of the frying pan, into the fire.”<br /><br />The office of Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has been approached for comment.</p><h3><strong>“Not a forced labour camp”</strong></h3><p>“Manus is meant to be a processing centre, not a forced labour camp,” says Rachel Ball, Director of Advocacy and Campaigns at the Human Rights Law Centre.</p><p>“These reports of thinly veiled threats of violence against asylum seekers if they don't work show yet again that we are sending vulnerable people into dangerous environments.”</p><p>A G4S spokesperson said it was company policy to not discuss contractual or operational matters.</p><p>Transfield, which beat G4S in a tender in late February, will be paid $1.22 billion to operate the Manus Island and Nauru detention facilities for 20 months.</p><p>This equates to about $900 a day for each detainee.</p><p>Transfield will take full control of the Manus Island detention centre on March 28.</p><h3><strong>“We fight until we die”</strong></h3><p>One detainee has provided photographs of what is alleged to be instructions by management in the event of more violent incidents within the camp:</p><p>[[{"fid":"168686","view_mode":"full","type":"media","attributes":{"alt":"One asylum seeker has provided SBS with photographs of notices taped to a pin board, instructing Manus Island detainees of what to do in the event of another incident. ","title":"One asylum seeker has provided SBS with photographs of notices taped to a pin board, instructing Manus Island detainees of what to do in the event of another incident. ","class":"media-element file-full"}}]]</p><p>“If the PNG police are required to enter your compound you will hear multiple fire engine sirens being turned on and off. If you are not part of the riot … sit down and put your hands on your head. G4S personnel will then attempt to move you to a place of safety,” it reads.</p><p>Some detainees say they will resist if attacked by Manus Island police or local staff.</p><p>“We will fight with everybody who want attack us (sic). We fight until we die,” writes one.</p><p>Asked if they thought another attack would occur soon, the asylum seeker replies, “yes, yes, yes, yeeeeeees.”</p><p><strong><a href="http://twitter.com/Asher_Wolf" target="_blank">Asher Wolf </a>is a freelance journalist and information activist. Correspondence with asylum seekers has been released to SBS with permission for publication.<br /></strong></p>