Manus asylum seeker death investigations underway

February 19, 2014
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Fingers are pointing in every direction following the death of an Iranian asylum seeker and violent clashes on Australia’s Manus Island detention centre on Monday night.

Two investigations are now underway by both the Australian and Papua New Guinea (PNG) governments into the incident, which also left up to 77 injured and one person shot.

Australia’s Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has confirmed that PNG police fired their guns during the large disturbance, but the exact circumstances of this are still murky.

The violence appears to have taken place between detained asylum seekers, centre guards, Manus locals, and PNG police.

It followed ongoing sentiment against the Australian-led detention centre by Manus Island locals.

“Gangs of armed police and locals actually went from compound to compound, hunting down asylum seekers and inflicting very serious injuries on people that they got their hands on,” said refugee advocate, Ian Rintoul, to the ABC yesterday.

Australia’s controversial agreement with PNG was initiated by the former Labor government and involves the offshore processing of asylum seekers hoping to come to Australia.

“The PNG solution was a [Labor government] Rudd scheme. That’s just historically the case, but also explains why ALP reluctant to criticise Libs,” tweeted refugee advocate Jeff Sparrow last night.

Opposition government spokesperson Richard Marles told the ABC that the Manus Island centre is in a state of “meltdown” but that the new Abbott-led government should keep it operating.

"It is the cornerstone of Australia's strategy in terms of reducing the flow of boats from Indonesia. It more than anything else is the reason why we are seeing a reduction in the flow of boats from Indonesia,” he said.

The troubling incident follows controversy over comics funded and distributed by the Australian government, which tells asylum hopefuls there’s “no way” they should come here.

It also follows a provocative narrative piece by the independent news outlet The Global Mail, which documented life inside a Serco-operated Australian detention centre.

Amnesty International Australia and other aslyum seeker advocacy groups are continuing to call for the immediate end of the nation’s offshore processing policy.

"During our visit to the facility late last year we received firsthand testimony from asylum seekers and service providers that this system was breaking people," said Graham Thom, Amnesty International Australia's Refugee spokesperson.

There are more than 1200 people detained on Manus Island. Some have been on the island for more than six months.

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