Manus Island MP Ron Knight says detention centre unrest was avoidable
Advertisement

Manus Island MP Ron Knight says detention centre unrest was avoidable

Manus Island MP Ron Knight says last Monday's violence could have been avoided if detention centre managers had not refused entry to Mr Knight's staff a few hours before the tinderbox ignited.

The tension that erupted into violent clashes a week ago and left 23-year-old Iranian Reza Berati dead, had been brewing for weeks, Mr Knight says. ''People were texting me saying, 'It's going to blow up.' But [the detention centre's managers] tried to play it down.''

If his staff had been able to see the centre for themselves, Mr Knight says, he could have arranged extra police squads as a deterrent to the melee that erupted.

''Things could have been done that stopped this thing from blowing up,'' he said.

Immigration minister Scott Morrison has been unable to say categorically that non-protesting detainees were not caught up in the violence.

Immigration minister Scott Morrison has been unable to say categorically that non-protesting detainees were not caught up in the violence.

Photo: Kate Geraghty
Advertisement

There are still conflicting reports of how things unfolded that night - all of which will be scrutinised by parallel investigations. But Immigration Minister Scott Morrison's admission late on Saturday that most or all of the violence happened within the centre perimeter - not outside as he had previously suggested - bolsters witness accounts that locally engaged staff of the security company that runs the centre, G4S, were responsible for much of the violence meted out to asylum seekers.

The tension rose after asylum seekers handed the centre managers a letter last weekend detailing their grievances, largely about the lack of information on their asylum claims. Some sources say the asylum seekers were told they would not be given any help resettling in third countries.

On the Sunday afternoon, some asylum seekers began chanting in protest, feeling their concerns were being dismissed. That evening, about 35 broke out of the centre. They were quickly rounded up. There were some arrests and injuries.

Also that day, according to Mr Knight, asylum seekers had intensified their verbal taunts against locally employed guards, including threats to rape their mothers and sisters. This account has been backed up by other sources.

When the simmering anger flared again the following night, an unknown number are understood to have broken out of the centre. Those who did were quickly stopped by the police ''mobile squad''.

Loading

They were chased back into the centre. While the police were clearly involved in the response to the riot - gunshots were fired, and they are the only protagonists who carry guns - both Mr Morrison's statement and one by G4S itself seem to put the spotlight on the security firm's workers.

There are other questions remaining. Mr Morrison has been unable to say categorically that non-protesting detainees were not caught up in the violence.

Most Viewed in Politics

Loading

Morning & Afternoon Newsletter

Delivered Mon–Fri.

By signing up you accept our privacy policy and conditions of use