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Former migration agent opens up about Manus Island

Liz Thompson claims staff on Manus Island were forced to lie to detainees. Nine news.

PT0M28S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-33gi7 620 349

The deadly clashes on Manus Island last week flared after asylum seekers realised the Australian government was ''lying to them'' about plans to resettle them in Papua New Guinea, a migration agent who worked on the island has said.

Liz Thompson, who was helping asylum seekers lodge their refugee applications on Manus Island when the alleged riot broke out, told Fairfax Media that the asylum seekers launched their protests when a Papua New Guinean official went ''off script'' and acknowledged there were no plans in place for their resettlement.

Martin Bowles.

Martin Bowles, secretary of the Immigration Department. Photo: Andrew Meares

Her claims came as Australia's top immigration bureaucrat told a Senate hearing that the post-mortem on the body of 23-year-old Reza Barati, who was killed in last Monday's clashes, still had not been carried out. Martin Bowles, secretary of the Immigration Department, also said he could not guarantee that local security contractors who had inflicted injuries on detainees had been stood down.

Ms Thompson, first interviewed by SBS's Dateline program, accused the Immigration Department of deceiving the detainees and said the system - which she branded ''a farce'' - was designed to force them to give up and return to their home countries.

''We were taking them through a process that goes nowhere,'' she said. ''There is no visa for them to get. There's no legislation governing their resettlement.

''Manus Island is an experiment in the ultimate logic of deterrence, designed to frustrate the hell out of people and terrify them so that they go home. Your two options are indefinitely detention or to return to the country where you fear persecution.''

She said asylum seekers had demanded answers from a senior PNG immigration official at a tense meeting on the Sunday afternoon before the Monday night violence. He had been ''honest with the guys about the fact that there is no process on PNG for their resettlement''.

Her claim is consistent with the account on the Sunday meeting given to Fairfax Media by whistleblower interpreter Azita Bokan and another employee at the centre.

Mr Morrison said asylum seekers said they had been told ''a third country option will not be offered and that neither the PNG nor Australian governments will be acting on behalf of the transferees in seeking alternative settlement countries to PNG''.

But insiders say there is no prospect of resettlement in PNG in the medium-term because PNG still had no legal framework to accommodate them, with no guarantees on work and other rights and no progress toward a pilot resettlement scheme.

Mr Bowles, meanwhile, told the hearing in Canberra on Tuesday that Reza Barati's body had been flown to Port Moresby but indicated it had not yet been examined.

''As of today, my understanding is still that the deceased has been moved to Port Moresby in anticipation of an autopsy,'' he said.

Both the PNG and Australian governments have said that a PNG police investigation is under way into Mr Barati's death.

Mr Bowles also revealed gas canisters were fired in the incident.

■ Australia has returned its seventh boatload of asylum seekers to Indonesia, deploying another lifeboat, on which 26 people arrived on Java on Monday afternoon.

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