Voices from Manus: ‘We are in danger. Somebody please help us’

February 18, 2014

Asylum seekers claim they were attacked inside the compound, contradicting government accounts of two bloody days.

A conflicting picture of violence at the Manus detention centre is emerging.

A conflicting picture of violence at the Manus detention centre is emerging. Photograph: EPA

 At 10.29pm local time on Monday, an asylum seeker inside Manus Island detention centre sent this message to Guardian Australia: “We are in danger. They attacked us again. Somebody please help us. They cut off the electricity and attacked us.”

By the end of the night one asylum seeker was dead, another shot, another in a critical condition, and dozens injured after the most severe disturbance at the controversial centre since it reopened in October 2012. The asylum seeker who sent this message has been uncontactable since.

A hazy but grim picture of events on Sunday and Monday night on Manus is starting to emerge, with both asylum seekers and contractors working on Manus offering first-hand accounts of the reported rioting.

However, some of the details are directly contradicted by official accounts from the immigration minister, Scott Morrison, and service provider G4S.

A contractor who contacted Guardian Australia described scenes on Monday evening at the Hotel Bibby, the accommodation block where Manus detention centre staff live.

The contractor says that late on Monday evening, injured asylum seekers were being brought to a makeshift hospital outside the accommodation block, driven in on a ute by G4S personnel.

“They were just makeshift beds. Transferees were carried in on sheets. Blood everywhere, crying,” the contractor told Guardian Australia. “There were 30 or 40 clients down there. We had gunshot wounds, some with head injuries.”

Guardian Australia has verified that every source quoted here was on Manus.

The contractor took notes on some of the accounts given by asylum seekers. They claim that one Iranian asylum seeker told them: “I did nothing, I wasn’t involved in the protests, I was in my room, being good, trying to sleep. They came in my room … they dragged me out of my bed and beat me. They had huge rocks in their hands and they hit my head and my body with them.”

There have been different reports about who was responsible for the alleged attacks: guards, the PNG police or local residents.

A Sudanese asylum seeker reportedly told them: “We tried to hide under the containers, but they dragged us out and beat us. We couldn’t get away.”

Other asylum seekers who have spoken to refugee advocates have described similar scenes – of people entering the detention centre and attacking detainees.

Morrison says there are conflicting reports about whether PNG forces and locals entered the compound and states that the trouble was started on both nights by protesting asylum seekers.

The key point of difference between the official and asylum seekers’ accounts on both Sunday and Monday night’s disturbances appears to be about what happened in three compounds, Mike, Oscar and Foxtrot, inside the Manus centre.

According to an asylum seeker who contacted Guardian Australia on Monday evening, violence that occurred on Sunday started after the fencing between Mike compound and Foxtrot compound was broken down by asylum seekers, protesting about the status of their refugee claims and resettlement status.

The asylum seeker says that at around 8pm locally-hired G4S guards and Manus residents entered the compound through Oscar complex and “started beating the asylum seekers with swords and bats”.

Another asylum seeker who also said he witnessed the disturbance on Sunday night, told Guardian Australia: “The local people attacked us and started throwing stones.” On Monday afternoon he continued: “We are not safe here at all.”

By the end of the night one asylum seeker was dead, another shot, another in a critical condition, and dozens injured after the most severe disturbance at the controversial centre since it reopened in October 2012. The asylum seeker who sent this message has been uncontactable since.

A hazy but grim picture of events on Sunday and Monday night on Manus is starting to emerge, with both asylum seekers and contractors working on Manus offering first-hand accounts of the reported rioting.

However, some of the details are directly contradicted by official accounts from the immigration minister, Scott Morrison, and service provider G4S.

A contractor who contacted Guardian Australia described scenes on Monday evening at the Hotel Bibby, the accommodation block where Manus detention centre staff live.

The contractor says that late on Monday evening, injured asylum seekers were being brought to a makeshift hospital outside the accommodation block, driven in on a ute by G4S personnel.

“They were just makeshift beds. Transferees were carried in on sheets. Blood everywhere, crying,” the contractor told Guardian Australia. “There were 30 or 40 clients down there. We had gunshot wounds, some with head injuries.”

Guardian Australia has verified that every source quoted here was on Manus.

The contractor took notes on some of the accounts given by asylum seekers. They claim that one Iranian asylum seeker told them: “I did nothing, I wasn’t involved in the protests, I was in my room, being good, trying to sleep. They came in my room … they dragged me out of my bed and beat me. They had huge rocks in their hands and they hit my head and my body with them.”

There have been different reports about who was responsible for the alleged attacks: guards, the PNG police or local residents.

A Sudanese asylum seeker reportedly told them: “We tried to hide under the containers, but they dragged us out and beat us. We couldn’t get away.”

Other asylum seekers who have spoken to refugee advocates have described similar scenes – of people entering the detention centre and attacking detainees.

Morrison says there are conflicting reports about whether PNG forces and locals entered the compound and states that the trouble was started on both nights by protesting asylum seekers.

The key point of difference between the official and asylum seekers’ accounts on both Sunday and Monday night’s disturbances appears to be about what happened in three compounds, Mike, Oscar and Foxtrot, inside the Manus centre.

According to an asylum seeker who contacted Guardian Australia on Monday evening, violence that occurred on Sunday started after the fencing between Mike compound and Foxtrot compound was broken down by asylum seekers, protesting about the status of their refugee claims and resettlement status.

The asylum seeker says that at around 8pm locally-hired G4S guards and Manus residents entered the compound through Oscar complex and “started beating the asylum seekers with swords and bats”.

Another asylum seeker who also said he witnessed the disturbance on Sunday night, told Guardian Australia: “The local people attacked us and started throwing stones.” On Monday afternoon he continued: “We are not safe here at all.”

Manus Island: ‘agitated’ asylum seekers escape from detention centre

Monday 17 Feb 2014

This description is inconsistent with the official account, which states that around 35 asylum seekers escaped from Manus at 6.15pm withvideo footage of the Sunday disturbance also showing asylum seekers in what appears to be Mike compound throwing missiles at guards.

On Monday, service personnel were moved from the detention centre earlier in the day as “things were tense from the previous night”, the contractor told Guardian Australia.

From the Bibby Hotel, however, they could hear chants of “Fuck PNG” from asylum seekers inside. They say that a radio in the hotel sent a message that the fence in Mike compound had been breached at around 5.30pm and detainees were moving between Foxtrot and Mike compound They also say that locals had gathered around the perimeter at around this time.

Again, how the fence was breached, and who breached it remains unclear. Morrison says there are conflicting reports about who entered the compound on Monday night and confirmed that shots were fired twice in the evening.

On two occasions it is known that the PNG mobile squad, a special police unit funded by the Australian government, has attempted entry to the Manus camp. In May 2013 PNG police demanded payment from immigration officials at the camp, and in October 2013 a violent clash between PNG police and PNG army occurred outside the camp, with shots reportedly being fired.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/feb/18/voices-from-manus-we-are-in-danger-somebody-please-help-us

2 Comments

Filed under PNG/Pacific Solution, Torturing and Health Issues

2 responses to “Voices from Manus: ‘We are in danger. Somebody please help us’

  1. Pingback: Death of asylum seeker on Manus Island: Australia’s shame grows | strivetoengage

  2. Mo

    Many Australians are not yet ashamed. Let’s wait until we find out what happened before we decide!

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