• Wednesday, April 23, 2014

One killed in PNG asylum camp violence

BBC Online

One asylum seeker has been killed and 77 injured during a second night of violence at Australia's immigration detention centre in Papua New Guinea.

The man died of head injuries on the way to hospital, Australian Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said.

Thirteen people suffered serious injuries including two who were being transferred to Australia for treatment, one with a gunshot wound.

He said the injuries occurred outside the camp, after the men broke out.

"This was a very dangerous situation where people decided to protest in a very violent way and to take themselves outside the centre and place themselves at great risk," Morrison said.

Security outside the centre in Manus Island was the domain of the PNG police, he said.

"Those who are maintaining the environment outside the centre need to use their powers and various accoutrements that they have available to them to restore order in the way that is provided for under PNG law," he said.

Ian Rintoul, of the Refugee Action Coalition, however, said detainees at Manus Island had told him that locals and PNG police entered the camp and attacked them, after a day of tensions.

"PNG police and locals carried out systematic attacks, savage attacks on the asylum seekers last night," he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Morrison, the immigration minister, said he had been told that "PNG police did not enter the centre and that their activities related only to dealing with transferees who breached the external perimeter".

He called the death of the asylum seeker "a great tragedy".

"We don't know what occurred outside the centre and that obviously will be the subject of an investigation into that person's death," he said.

The violence comes after some of the detainees briefly escaped from the detention centre on Sunday.

'MUST BE CLOSED'

In recent months Australia has taken a very tough stance in a bid to halt the flow of asylum-seekers, who arrive by boat via Indonesia.

Manus Island is one of two offshore processing camps to which asylum seekers are transferred. The other is on the Pacific island of Nauru.

Conditions at both of these camps have been the subject of harsh criticism from both UN agencies and human rights groups.

Australia has also initiated a policy - aimed as a deterrent - whereby those people found to be genuine refugees will be settled in Papua New Guinea rather than Australia.

Sunday's break-out is reported to have taken place after detainees were told that they would not be resettled in Australia.

Rights groups argue that prolonged detention in cramped, over-heated conditions, compounded by a lack of clarity over when asylum claims will be assessed and where the applicant might end up, can lead to mental health issues in detainees.

They have also questioned whether Australia is adequately protecting vulnerable people.

Greens spokeswoman Sarah Hanson-Young said the violence showed the centre "must be closed, and it must be closed now."

''Clearly there needs to be an inquiry into this,'' the Sydney Morning Herald quoted Human Rights Commission President Prof Gillian Triggs as saying.

''The primary obligation that Australia has is to offer protection for asylum seekers and we cannot abdicate that responsibility by sending people to a third country, in this case Papua New Guinea, but it is clear that responsibility is not being met.''

Morrison said that the government was determined to stick to its policies.

Published: 10:32 am Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Last modified: 9:01 pm Tuesday, February 18, 2014

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