January 23, 2015 | the guardian
None of the 58 asylum seekers who were arrested following protests have been charged yet face living in prison for an indeterminate time.
Fifty-eight detainees forcibly removed from the Manus Island detention centre could be held in jail without charge until their refugee status determinations are made.
Video footage obtained by Guardian Australia shows dozens of asylum seekers and refugees held in a single, windowless prison cell.
There is no furniture in the cell. Almost all the men lie close together and motionless in tight lines on the floor.
A man speaking on the video – whose voice has been altered to avoid identification – alleged the men were beaten by security guards employed by Wilson and by police while in custody.
“They have beaten everyone in this camp. We are totalling 58 people, they beat the shit out of all of us,” he said.
The video shows marks on some of the men’s bodies. It ends abruptly when a noise is heard, apparently outside the cell.
The Australian immigration minister, Peter Dutton, has said previously that the protesters were arrested there was “a degree of force … that’s appropriate”, while the Papua New Guinean immigration minister, Rimbink Pato, said some agitators were restrained but there were no serious injuries.
Both governments have denied any improper use of force. Neither minister returned calls on Thursday.
Detainees on Manus Island have had an antagonistic relationship with the PNG police.
An Australian government review last year found that PNG police were the major catalyst for violence during protests in February last year, when they invaded the detention centre and attacked detainees.
Detainees have said they are regularly threatened by police and locals, while police have said detainees often racially abused them.
None of the men arrested at the detention centre this week have been charged with any offence.
Most of the asylum seekers were arrested after detention centre guards in riot gear broke through a barricade in Delta compound. Suspected protest “ringleaders” from other compounds were also arrested.
Guardian Australia has been told some of the men imprisoned were taken from the Manus centre’s secret solitary confinement cells, the Chauka isolation unit.
The National newspaper in PNG reported that some of the men would be held in Lorengau prison on Manus Island, while others would be flown to the larger Bomana prison in Port Moresby.
Australia is building a dedicated immigration prison for asylum seekers whose claims for refugee status are not successful at Bomana, but that is not yet ready.
The men moved to Port Moresby will be housed in the existing prison. A PNG government source told the Nation the asylum seekers would be moved to the capital’s prison over the next week.
“Forty or 50 asylum seekers will be flown to Port Moresby,” he said. “This has caused concern among senior management at Correctional Service because of the security of our own prisoners.”
Last month Pato signed documents declaring both the Bomana and Lorengau prisons, and the Manus police lock-up, “to be relocation centres for the temporary residence of asylum seekers pending the determination of their refugee status under Papua New Guinea law”, the government source said.
The PNG migration act allows the minister to direct where refugees and asylum seekers must live, including in prisons.
The Australian immigration department and Dutton refused to comment on the incarceration of asylum seekers.
In the Manus Island detention centre, the hunger strike that started 11 days ago continued across several of the compounds. Two Sudanese men who swallowed nail files have reportedly been taken Port Moresby for further medical treatment. A man who earlier swallowed four razor blades has already been removed from Manus Island.
Several hundred men continue to refuse food and water, and more than 200 people have been taken away to receive medical attention for severe dehydration and other complications.
Some of the men who want to eat reportedly feel pressure from other protesters to maintain the hunger strike.
Meanwhile 15 more Iranian detainees have gone on hunger strike in Darwin’s Wickham Point detention centre, protesting against their conditions and detention.
Security contractor Wilson and detention centre manager Transfield were both approached for comment and were both instructed by the Australian immigration department not to comment.