Alleged attackers return to Manus camp

A refugee rights rally in Melbourne on March 1. Photo: melbourneprotests.wordpress.com

The Refugee Action Coalition released the statement below on March 11.

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Refugee advocates are warning of new dangers of attacks on asylum seekers if local staff are re-introduced into the Manus Island detention centre.

Local and national PNG staff and police have been excluded from the detention centre since the night of February 17 when 23-year-old Reza Berati was killed and at least 77 others brutally bashed.

An account received by the Refugee Action Coalition from a victim of the attacks revealed the involvement of the local staff: “Refugees screamed for help from G4S officers.

"When they got closer, it became obvious that the people [allowed into the compound] were G4S officers armed with hand weapons such as wooden sticks, rocks, machetes and long swords. They attacked the refugees and started hitting them.

"Everyone was panicked as to why the G4S officers were behaving so inhumanely … Six people surrounded me and with the sticks they had in their hands started hitting me. I fell on the ground and the only thing I managed to do was to cover my head with my hands, so my face and head were less injured.”

But senior detention centre management have moved to allow local PNG security staff back into the detention centre, as soon as March 11.

The move has terrified asylum seekers in the camp. Since February 17, asylum seekers have been subject to daily threats of being attacked and killed. “Locals” make throat-cutting gestures directed at asylum seekers and there are reports of protests by machete-wielding locals outside the perimeter wire of the detention centre.

The asylum seekers are also being pressured to agree to the re-introduction of locals by declining food quality and amount, which is being prepared outside the camp.
Authorities have rejected offers by the asylum seekers to prepare and cook the food themselves.

A letter circulated in Mike Compound in the last 24 hours, about a siren warning should police enter their compound, has heightened asylum seekers’ fears.

“The letter is completely absurd and indicates the immigration department is completely unwilling to protect asylum seekers on Manus Island. The very people who killed Reza Berati on February 17 are again being promoted as defenders of the asylum seekers,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.

“Re-introducing the local staff and police is a recipe for another disaster. Scott Morrison is complicit in the murder of Reza and with the ongoing regime of terror on Manus Island.

“The asylum seekers must be brought to Australia to ensure their safety.”

The safety of asylum seekers must also be guaranteed before they can give evidence to the inquiry led by PNG Chief Justice David Canning.

The first hearings are expected on Manus Island on March 17.

“Asylum seekers will not be able to give evidence freely while their attackers remain at large. As long as the detention centre is open to those who killed and attacked them, there is a possibility of bloody retribution to rival February 17,” said Rintoul.