One asylum seeker is dead, another shot, and at least 13 have serious injuries, including a basal skull fracture, after an attack by PNG police and locals on the Australian run detention centre on Manus Island on 17 February.
This is a horror the Australian government allowed to happen. Staff and G4S guards – the private company that Australia outsources its detention “security” to – were evacuated from the compound after initial attacks and PNG police and armed locals were allowed to roam the compound. There have been reports of asylum seekers being pulled from under their beds; a man was allegedly thrown from the first floor of one of the buildings and another was shot in the buttock.
At approximately 11.30pm the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre in Melbourne received the following voice message:
“The G5S staff and at the same time the PNG guys they attacked us … they switched off the electricity and then they attacked us with stones … they are armed and are maybe like 200 or above. They broke down everything and they injured many, many of the transferees in this compound and I think at the same time maybe the other compounds they did to them.
“So we were locked in the rooms, still now we are in the rooms, I am talking to you now from the internet room and the telephone room. We locked the doors inside, you cannot open to anyone and they are still killing. I do not know until now if they killed many of us or they injured one of us. But … everyone is bleeding.”
The attacks came in response to a series of legitimate protests by asylum seekers since 25 January for the processing of their asylum claims.
What is clear is that the incident was not a “break out” as Scott Morrison has claimed. If asylum seekers are outside of the compound, it’s not because there has been a mass breakout; it is because they are fleeing for their lives.
Despite numerous statements from eyewitnesses, Morrison has denied that local police entered the compound, saying that asylum seekers fleeing the compound were putting themselves in danger and “subjecting themselves to the response of the local law”.
But it’s not just that the Australian government is responsible for this instance of bloodshed. Australia caused the tensions in PNG in the first place by the establishment of the centre on Manus Island.
In the words of the asylum seeker who made the desperate call to the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre: “We are not here by our choice. Australia government put us here by force and today this is happening. Who is responsible for our lives? We are dying here …”
Scott Morrison has made his position clear. The Department of Immigration and Border Security website’s section on refugees reads: “No way. They will not make Australia home”.
This policy is responsible for the atrocities on Manus Island.
We stand in solidarity with those protesting, and demand the Manus Island centre be closed and all the detainees brought to Australia.
The Refugee Action Coalition has called emergency protests around the country:
Melbourne, Not in our name! Close Manus Island! Safety for asylum seekers now! Friday, 21 February, 12.30pm at State Library.
Sydney, Close Manus Island, Stop the war on refugees: Converge on Tony Abbott's office, Saturday, 22 February, Manly (wharf 3, 11am departure), or meet at 12pm at Manly Park opposite Manly wharf.
Adelaide, Friday, 21 February, 4pm Malls Balls, Rundle Mall.