Manus Island guards unlicensed, says PNG regulator

An photo obtained from the Refugee Action Coalition on February 18, 2014 shows a man walking between tents at Manus Island detention centre.

Some security guards staffing the Manus Island detention facility are operating without a permit, says PNG's top security watchdog.

Some security guards staffing the Manus Island detention facility are operating without a permit, says PNG's top security watchdog.

Email correspondence obtained by SBS shows that Wilson Protective Services PNG Ltd., a subsidiary of Wilson Security, continues to have its licence withheld until it provides a list of all staff operating on the island.

In one email, a government official attached to the Papua New Guinea Security Industries Association (SIA) states that Wilson Security “is yet to respond to a compliance query before issuance of the licence and permits.”

The SIA regulates all private security companies operating in Papua New Guinea. The country’s Security (Protection) Act 2004 bans “unlicenced persons operating or receiving security services”.

In a phone conversation with SBS, SIA Registrar Paul Kingston Isari confirmed that Wilson Security has paid for a licence but has failed to provide a full manifest of guards.

“They need to have the permits, we will not release the licence until they come with all the names of the guards,” said Mr Isari.

SIA has not pursued the matter and there is currently some 180 Wilson Security staff stationed at Manus Island detention centre.

A spokesperson for the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Scott Morrison, told SBS that Wilson Security is a subcontractor for Transfield and is currently observing operations at the Manus Island detention facility.

“Wilson Security has applied for all the required permits and licences in Papua New Guinea and is awaiting confirmation from the Papua New Guinea government that its licences have been approved,” said the spokesperson.

Transfield will assume management of the Manus Island detention centre from G4S on March 28.

Manus Island police are reportedly set to charge several men over the death of 23-year-old Iranian asylum seeker Reza Berati.

Manus Island provincial police commander Alex N'Drasal said on Thursday he hoped soon to arrest three to four men and charge them with murder.

“Hopefully either this week or early next week, we are going to make arrests,” he said.

“We are looking at three to four guys to be arrested and charged. We'll probably charge them with murder.”

Asher Wolf is a freelance journalist and information activist.

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