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What happened on Manus

The official account of events that led to the death of an asylum seeker on Manus Island on Monday night, according to Border Protection Minister Scott Morrison.

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Tony Abbott should immediately suspend transfers to Manus Island until a credible and comprehensive inquiry determines what caused the chain of events that led to the death of one asylum seeker and injuries to more than 70 others.

Scott Morrison's initial assertion that the inquiry will be carried out by Papua New Guinea authorities under PNG law was totally inadequate. The news that a departmental review will run concurrently also falls short of the kind of transparency the situation demands.

The riots on Manus Island on Sunday.

The riots on Manus Island on Sunday.

The tragedy underscores the most fundamental flaw of the policy of deflecting Australia's responsibilities under the refugee convention to PNG and Nauru, countries completely ill-equipped to meet them.

The agreement between Australia and PNG asserts that "transferees" will be afforded dignity and respect, but successive independent international agencies have reported that this is simply not happening.

This was unwittingly emphasised by the minister's repeated insistence that asylum seekers only placed themselves at risk when they sought to leave the centre.

To the cocktail of harsh conditions, and the uncertainty about when their claims for refugee status will be processed, is the even greater doubt about where they will live if their claims are upheld – and the hostility of locals to the intention that they will stay in PNG forever.

The minister's main response to the tragedy was to promise more security and the vow that the government's commitment to its "suite of policies" to stop boat arrivals is absolute.

His initial report on what occurred – and the short statement by security contractor G4S – raised many more questions than were answered. What were they protesting about? How were they injured? How could it be that the only shot fired hit an asylum seeker in the buttocks? Who fired the shot?

The subsequent briefing, after cabinet's national security committee was briefed, only raised more questions. The initial assertion that the asylum seeker who died had left the "safety" of the facility and put himself at risk was now qualified in the light of conflicting reports.

The minister's second briefing reported two shots, almost two hours apart, but warned against any "joining the dots" and the conclusion that one of shots must have hit the man who suffered the wound to his buttocks, presumably as he was running from the shooter.

What we do know is that there is no evidence that the asylum seekers were armed; that 77 of them were treated for injuries (with one airlifted to Australia after suffering a fractured skull); and that there are no reports of injuries to centre staff, PNG police or local residents.

What we don't know is how far the processing of claims by the more than 1300 asylum seekers has progressed; precisely what has been done in response to recommendations from the UNHCR and Amnesty International after visits to Manus; where those found to be refugees will reside (the local MP insists none will re-settle on Manus); and what prospects they will have of citizenship and its privileges.

Until there are satisfactory answers, the transfer of asylum seekers from Christmas Island to Manus should cease.

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