Report into fatal riot at PNG detention centre does little to quell anger

By Greg Ansley

Scott Morrison.
Scott Morrison.

The release of an independent report into the fatal riot at Australia's immigration detention centre on Papua New Guinea's Manus Island will do little to end attacks on the Government.

The report, by former senior public servant Robert Cornall, pointed to serious underlying problems at the remote centre that extend well beyond flawed security arrangements. Although Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has promised to act on all the report's recommendations, Labor and other critics continue to blast the Government for its management of the camp.

But while Labor still supports the widely criticised policy of offshore detention that excludes even genuine refugees from setting foot in Australia, the Greens and other critics are calling for its end and Morrison's head.

Tapes of a secretly recorded security briefing on Manus also contradict the official version presented by then-security contractor G4S to Cornall's inquiry.

A Senate inquiry beginning in July will maintain the heat.

Cornall's report says no single party could bear sole blame for the riots on Manus in February in which one detainee had his throat slit and 23-year-old Iranian Reza Barati was brutally beaten to death.

The final blow to Barati's skull was allegedly delivered by a PNG local working for the Salvation Army, who is now in hiding. No charges have been laid.

Morrison conceded security staff had been aware of the threat of impending violence and said he regretted new measures were not implemented in time.

Cornall identified the main flashpoints as long waits for refugee status to be determined, uncertainty and lack of information, the prospect of being deported if their cases failed, and, if successful, resettlement in PNG.

Tensions had been mounting between detainees and locals, and between detainees themselves.

Although denied by G4S, tapes obtained by the ABC showed that in the event of trouble its staff could not control, the PNG police mobile squad would be called in.

The report said that when the squad arrived, followed by other locals, shots were fired and people were chased and severely beaten.

Manus Island MP Ronnie Knight, when asked about the immediate use of firearms by the mobile squad, told the ABC yesterday: "Well, when you've got a situation when you have got a couple of hundred people rioting, that's what happens in PNG. They would not treat it any different than our people would have been treated.

"That's what they're trained to do, put down things hard."

Key recommendations

• Guards to have search powers and ability to use force.
• Improve relationship with PNG locals.
• Operator to weed out any PNG staff involved in February beatings.
• Speed up refugee status processing.
• Extra training for PNG staff.

- AAP

- NZ Herald

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