Asylum-seeker killed in Manus unrest

A file image of the Manus Island detention centre facilities. (AAP)

Tensions and debate continue to mount between politicians and human rights groups about the fate of asylum-seekers at Australia's offshore processing centres.

(Transcript from World News Australia Radio)

It follows revelations an asylum-seeker died after more violence and break-outs at the Manus Island detention centre in Papua New Guinea.

Dozens of other people have been injured.

Aileen Phillips reports.

(Click on audio tab above to hear full item)

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has desribed the incident involving the death of the asylum seeker as distressing.

He says the asylum seeker died on the way to hospital, from a head injury that was sustained outside the detention centre.

Mr Morrison said of almost 80 people injured, one was in a critical condition with a skull fracture and has been evacuated to Australia for treatment, while another was shot in the buttock.

The incident on Monday night was the second time in two days there had been clashes at the centre, where about 1300 asylum seekers are housed.

Mr Morrison says there had been a rolling series of protests, starting a few weeks ago, with largely peaceful demonstrations culminating in the violence since Sunday.

The security company at the centre G4S issued a statement on the incident.

"Last night G4S responded to a second disturbance by transferees on Manus Island, which included a breach of the perimeter fence by transferees. Claims that the transferees breached the fence following internal attacks on them by local residents are unfounded. The breach of the perimeter fence followed two days of demonstrations by transferees. G4S pre-emptively evacuated all non-essential staff because of the demonstrations which had been escalating during the course of yesterday. G4S also moved transferees not participating in the demonstrations to a nearby oval for their safety. A number of transferees were injured after they breached the perimeter fence and the matter became a law enforcement issue for PNG authorities.G4S staff were able to restore order within the Centre without the use of force. All G4S staff have been accounted for. G4S is currently accounting for all transferees by face to photo checks."

Australian Greens immigration spokeswoman Senator Sarah Hanson-Young says the centre is unsustainable and must be shut down.

"It is untenable to keep the Manus Island detention camp open. It must be closed. I heard the Minister's press conference this morning and I watched with horror at how he tried to blame the victims themselves rather than take responsibility for a policy that is designed to hurt people, to break people's spirits, to be harsh and cruel to them."

But Immigration Minister Scott Morrison says the government's policies remain intact.

"The centre is viable, the centre was operating this morning. People who have come to Australia illegally by boat will be processed offshore. There is no change to that policy and the people who are in that centre will be processed in PNG according to PNG law. That is the policy, there is no change to the policy and our relationship with PNG is as strong as it always has been."

Manus Island MP Ron Knight told the ABC detention security provider G4S is responsible and clearly not in control of Lombrum, the naval base where the facility is located.

"Our people are quite happy to have the asylum-seeker centre there but I think this is one of the scenarios that we were caught with our trousers down, I would say, because there is no contingency plan for this. When they walked into this, I've been saying for the last couple of months a small amount of asylum-seekers on Nauru did millions of dollars worth of damage, what is going to happen if 1300 get out in Manus? What sort of damage can they cause? Obviously we are about to find out."

But Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has denied claims that incidents like these display a lack of authority at the Centre.

"In situations like this, if you are able to restore order promptly, which was done within a matter of hours, and ensure the facility is maintained an able to resume operations, then that is an outcome which is positive. But clearly, the outcome where someone has absconded, gone outside the safety of that facility and put themselves at risk and resulting in such a tragic outcome is terrible."

Greens Senator Sarah Hanson Young says seeing asylum-seekers harm themselves or damage their environment is nothing new and a clear sign of distress and frustration.

She told the ABC all the warning signs about the centre have been ignored.

"The most awful thing about all of this is the government was warned over and over again that the environment was extremely toxic in the Manus Island detention centre. They heard it directly from Amnesty International who equated the toxic environment and conditions to torture. They heard it from the United Nations who said the treatment of refugees was inhumane and degrading. And yet all of those reports were dismissed by not just the Immigration Minister but also the Prime Minister. What we have seen and we have seen it happen before is when you treat people so appalingly, when you strip away their human dignity, they react."



Source World News Australia

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