Manus Island asylum seekers vow to continue hunger strike, more than 40 detainees jailed by PNG police

January 20, 2015 | ABC News

An asylum seeker is taken away on a stretcher after a hunger strike on Manus Island

An asylum seeker is taken away on a stretcher after a hunger strike on Manus Island.

Asylum seekers at the Manus Island detention centre have vowed to continue their hunger strike despite the temporary jailing of more than 40 men from Delta compound.

Refugee advocates who have been in contact with asylum seekers from various compounds said hundreds of men have continued their hunger strike, with many also refusing water.

A three-day blockade of Delta compound ended on Monday when civilian security guards working at the centre forced their way in through a gate and PNG’s chief migration officer negotiated an end to the protest.

The PNG government said that while some asylum seekers were restrained by guards, there were no serious injuries.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton told the ABC’s 7.30 program there was a “physical confrontation” with detainees and some had “home-fashioned weapons”, but there were no serious injuries.

“What happened in Delta, it really scared us but we are not going to stop our hunger strike, it will continue,” an asylum seeker from Foxtrot compound told the ABC.

PNG police said more than 40 asylum seekers were detained in the provincial prison and another four were being held in the police cells.

However asylum seekers said a higher number of men were arrested.

Media player: “Space” to play, “M” to mute, “left” and “right” to seek.

AUDIO: Asylum seekers at Manus Island detention centre to continue hunger strike (PM)

“Right now we are 58 people inside the PNG jail and PNG police squad they beat [us] … they are torturing us in here and they put us here without any judge warrant,” said a man who said he was among those detained.

Neither the claims from asylum seekers or government officials could be independently verified because media access is forbidden at the Australian-run centre.

The jailed asylum seekers have not been charged but have been isolated while PNG police carry out a search of their compound, looking for weapons, mobile phones and other contraband.

Conflicting reports on level of force used dealing with detainees

There were conflicting reports about the level of force used by guards to break up the blockade at Delta compound on Monday afternoon.

PNG’s immigration minister Rimbink Pato said the stand-off at Delta compound was brought under control using “minimal force”.

“We did not want to escalate the situation further by forcing entry into this compound, but we knew that there were people inside who needed to get out,” Mr Pato said in a statement.

“The unlawful behaviour included damaging property, throwing of rocks and furniture over the fence and prevention of entrance by the lawful authorities [and] had to be brought under control.

If they want to negotiate with us we will accept their negotiation but there’s one option… they have to take us out of PNG… otherwise we will not accept any negotiation.

Manus Island detainee

Mr Dutton said physical force was neccessary to quell the disturbance, because some protesters were armed.

Were not talking about firearms, for example we’re talking about homemade or home-fashioned weapons,” he told 7.30, declining to go into further detail.

Mr Pato said the actions of the most vocal asylum seekers do not necessarily reflect the views of all those detained on Manus Island.

“Most asylum seekers are peaceable people who simply want their refugee claims processed as quickly as possible so they can start rebuilding their lives in PNG,” he said.

“They have fled situations of conflict and do not want to be part of the aggressive behaviour that agitators have shown.”

However, asylum seekers and their advocates continued to reject the idea of a peaceful intervention to the stand-off at Delta compound.

An asylum seeker from the Foxtrot compound told the ABC that he witnessed police enter a back gate of Delta compound, while the security guards were focused on another entrance.

“When the guys are really busy with the guards, the police start attack them from behind, they start beating them,” the asylum seeker said.

“They beat them very seriously actually, we have seen many, many people really bleeding. I have seen 15 guys they carried on a stretcher.”

The PNG government confirmed police were in attendance but said they were not needed and stayed back.

Detainees being processed as quickly as possible: Peter Dutton

Australian-based refugee advocate group Humanitarian Research Partners wrote to the United Nations Special Rapporteurs for Torture, Human Rights and the Rights of Migrants about Monday’s incident.

Australian security guards were among those who went into Delta compound and the private contractor that operates the centre received praise from Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Immigration Minister Peter Dutton.

One asylum seeker responded directly to the Immigration Minister’s words.

Media player: “Space” to play, “M” to mute, “left” and “right” to seek.

VIDEO: Peter Dutton says the Government is processing detainees as quickly as possible. (7.30)

“Today we have read what the Minister said to the media but that will not stop us and we will never ever stop our hunger strike,” the detainee said.

“If they want to negotiate with us we will accept their negotiation but there’s one option … they have to take us out of PNG… otherwise we will not accept any negotiation.”

An independent review of last February’s riots at the centre by the former head of the Attorney-General’s Department, Robert Cornwell, found frustration at being denied access to Australia, uncertainty about being resettled in PNG and anxiety over delays in processing claims was the catalyst for the unrest.

Mr Dutton denied those factors were still in play at the centre and could lead to further violent riots.

“We are processing applications, we’re relying on ASIO and intelligence agencies to conduct security assessments of people, where people are deemed to be refugees they can settle in Papua New Guinea,” he told 7.30.

“Where people are deemed not to be refugees we want to make sure that we can return those people as quickly as possible to their country of origin.

“We are working through that as quickly as we can.”

The Immigration Minister refused to say whether the Government had resettled anyone in PNG.

Source: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-01-20/manus-island-detainess-vow-to-continue-hunger-strike/6028864

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Filed under PNG/Pacific Solution, Torturing and Health Issues

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