Reference to child rejected after Dutton weighs in on Manus Island shooting

A supplied image obtained Saturday, April 15, 2017 of the damaged outer gate to the Oscar Compound on Manus Island detention centre. Source: JANE SALMON

Peter Dutton says a shooting at the Manus Island detention centre may have been caused by a small boy being led towards the facility by asylum seekers.

Australia's immigration minister says a shooting at the Manus Island detention centre was allegedly sparked by asylum seekers being seen leading a local boy into the camp.

Peter Dutton has weighed in on why PNG Defence personnel may have opened fire on Good Friday, saying three asylum seekers were spotted leading a five-year-old boy towards the immigration centre.

"I think there was concern about why the boy was being led, or for what purpose he was being led, away back into the regional processing centre," the minister told Sky News on Thursday.

The violent incident, in which local men tried to storm the detention centre and shots were fired into it, came after a refugee on Manus Island was last month arrested for the alleged sexual assault of a child.

Mr Dutton said there was a lot of angst surrounding the incident among the PNG community.

"I think it's fair to say that the mood had elevated quite quickly. I think some of the local residents were quite angry about this particular incident and another alleged sexual assault," he said.

"Again, I don't have the full details and those matters are under investigation."


The five-year-old boy was returned to his parents unharmed, he said.

Mr Dutton's claims jar with separate reports from PNG police and defence forces.

The PNG Defence Force says the incident was triggered by an altercation on a football field when asylum seekers refused to leave the ground as directed, which escalated after an officer was assaulted.

The local police commander, Inspector David Yapu, blamed the incident on "drunken" soldiers who he claimed had waged an unethical and unacceptable rampage.

Manus asylum seeker and journalist Behrouz Boochani has accused Mr Dutton of lying, warning the minister could stoke further tensions.

"Dutton's comment about April 14 very dangerous & makes refugees & staff less safe. Why do you want to make conflict (between) refugees & locals?" Mr Boochani tweeted.

"I ask politicians, media to stop (immigration) minister spreading false allegations. He doesn't know anything about Manusian culture. Dangerous lie."

At least one asylum seeker was injured when a large group of local men, including Navy personnel, tried to storm the detention centre and attack the asylum seekers inside on Friday.

More than 100 rounds of ammunition were fired into the centre, which was left peppered with gunshots.

The incident sparked serious concerns for the safety of detainees and Australian authorities on the island.

PNG authorities are investigating the incident, according to a spokeswoman for the department.

The Manus Island detention centre is due to close on October 31, but activists have in recent days renewed calls for the centre to be immediately shut down.

Mr Dutton says those refugees who aren't taken under an agreement with the US will settle in the PNG, while non-refugees will be sent back to their home country.

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