Morrison releases Manus Island riot report

Morrison releases Manus Island riot report

An independent Australian report says an Iranian asylum seeker who died in unrest at the Manus Island detention centre in February was struck from behind by a Papua New Guinea national employed by the Salvation Army.

(Transcript from SBS World News Radio)

An independent Australian report says an Iranian asylum seeker who died in unrest at the Manus Island detention centre in February was struck from behind by a Papua New Guinea national employed by the Salvation Army.


The report by former public servant Robert Cornall says 23-year-old Reza Berati was also kicked and had a rock dropped on his head, before dying of heart failure while being treated by medical staff.


It says in the opinion of the treating doctor, Mr Berati had suffered a severe brain injury, and would not have survived even if better medical treatment had been available.


Immigration Minister Scott Morrison says a criminal investigation into Mr Berati's death is continuing.


"Mr Berati was struck from behind by service provider staff member, not G4S. It was actually Salvation Army and that other individuals including a G4S security contractor, it is alleged, were involved in rushing past him and kicking him and then a rock was dropped on Mr Berati's head."


Scott Morrison says the Cornall report found no particular factor caused the unrest at the detention centre.


He says the report lists a number of contributory factors.


"It says on page 9 of the report that the events that the events that occurred on the 16-18 of February were the result of increasing tension in the centre and the transferees' frustration and anxiety caused by anger at being bought to Papua New Guinea. Anger with the policy that if they are found to be genuine refugees they will be resettled in PNG not in Australia. Frustration in the delay of the processing of their refugee status determinations and lack of information about the likely timing for the completion of these determinations. Further anger and frustration resulting in the consequent uncertainty about their future including and, in particular, how long they will be kept at the Manus centre and frustration arising from the lack of information about what resettlement in PNG would mean for them and their families."


Opposition immigration spokesman Richard Marles says it's the Australian government's fault that uncertainty over resettlement was one of the causes for the unrest.


"Resettlement of successful refugee claimants in PNG was at the heart of the PNG arrangement that was struck by the Labor government last July. And yet what we see from this government is that from the time they were sworn in there was not a single ministerial conference between minister Morrison and his counterpart in Papua New Guinea about the resettlement of successful refugee claimants in PNG until after the events of February of this year. This is a government which staked its claim on being a government of no surprises and no excuses. And yet what we saw was utter inaction on the critical question around the successful management of this facility, and that was seeing people processed and ultimately resettled in Papua New Guinea."


The Cornall report says another reason for the unrest was antagonism between some in the camp and PNG nationals working there.


Mr Morrison says this was prompted in part by the behaviour of some of the asylum-seekers.


"It goes on to say that those principal causes were aggravated by the antagonism that had been developed between some transferees and PNG nationals employed at the centre and their supporters in the local community. Some transferees treated PNG national employed in the centre, in a disrespectful and racist manner and criticised their country. That was based on the reports that Mr Cornwall was able to receive from those involved in the centre."


Mr Morrison says the government accepts all of the Cornall report's recommendations, and had already begun implementing some of them.


He says for example, the government had already moved on the recommendation relating to better co-ordination of roles and responsiblities relating to security at the centre.


"There are other underlying factors that are noted in the report also on page 10 that contributed to the loss of control of the incidents and the duration of the disturbance on the second night. They are noted as the physical security arrangements at the centre, were not up to the requirements of managing a large number of non- compliant transferees and a lack of clarity in the roles and responsibilities and the provincial New Guinea police based at Lorengau and the mobile squad stationed at the Manus PC and the cordination of their actions with G4S."


But the Greens' spokeswoman on immigration, Sarah Hanson-Young, doesn't accept the findings in the Cornall report, or Scott Morrison's re-assurances about the recommendations.


"People who were involved in these attacks may still be working in that centre, paid for by the taxpayer. This has been a shameful incident that this Minister and his department has overseen. And from day one they have been skirting around the truth. This report is effectively a whitewash. It doesn't say anything new than the facts that haven't already been out there. It doesn't put forward any new recommendations aside from what the government's own contractors urged and begged the Minister to act on weeks and months before the incident."


Scott Morrison says the Cornall report has been handed to the Papua New Guinea government.






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