EXCLUSIVE: The Manus Island meeting that set off a riot
David Wroe and Michael Gordon examine new video showing rising tensions inside the detention facility in mid-February.PT4M5S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-392cm 620 349 May 27, 2014
Asylum seekers already angry about the uncertainty they faced were repeatedly told they would remain in Manus Island's overcrowded detention centre indefinitely at an incendiary pre-riot meeting, footage obtained exclusively by Fairfax Media shows.
The meeting brought to a head tensions that had simmered for months over the failure to process claims for refugee status and was a catalyst for the violence that began less than two hours later, culminating in the killing of Reza Barati.
Nearly two hours of video chart the meeting's descent into combative chaos as detainees vented their frustrations on PNG and Australian officials, who delivered scripted answers that underscored the hopelessness of the detainees' situation.
Five times PNG immigration official Jeffrey Kiangali told the detainees assessing their asylum claims would be a ''very lengthy process'' with ''no definite timeframe''.
He also repeatedly stressed they were ''free to go home'' any time, but if they chose to stay, they would be stuck in the detention camp ''for as long as it takes to process your claims''. His answers to questions put by the detainees at a meeting 12 days earlier were written by Australian and PNG immigration officials.
Mr Kiangali told the detainees from Mike Compound who gathered for the meeting that any misbehaviour might affect their refugee claims, a suggestion refugee lawyers said was inappropriate.
Mr Kiangali said: ''Your behaviour and conduct at this centre will also be taken into consideration during your refugee status determination process.''
In protests that followed, some of the detainees taunted PNG nationals outside the centre with slurs that were used to justify the retribution that followed, but in the meeting one Iranian stressed that their grievance was not with PNG people. ''We just talk about your government, not your people,'' the man declared. ''Your people are really lovely and we love them but, the thing is, your government shouldn't accept this.''
According to the departmental inquiry headed by Robert Cornall, the meeting brought the tensions that had ben building to flashpoint, with detainees believing they would be on Manus Island for up to four years.
''The transferees felt that, after waiting for 12 days (for answers to questions), they were given no information at the Sunday meeting and that their questions had not been satisfactorily answered,'' the report concluded.
The meeting also underscores that many asylum seekers were simply upset they had been transferred to PNG when they wanted to come to Australia.
Daniel Webb, of the Human Rights Law Centre, said: ''Refugees have rights. The governments of Australia and PNG must respect them instead of threatening to ignore them unless people are completely and utterly compliant whilst being detained indefinitely in inhumane conditions.''
It is understood the video has been submitted to a Senate inquiry by security firm G4S.
smh.com.au- Go online to watch the video