Manus Island riot report released
DELAYS in processing asylum seeker claims and the Abbott Government's policy to not resettle refugees in Australia were key factors that led to fatal riots at the Manus Island offshore detention centre in February.
Immigration Minister Scott Morrison on Monday released a report of the review of the circumstances surrounding the riots, in which Iranian asylum seeker Reza Barati was killed and more than 69 others injured.
The investigation, led by former public servant Robert Cornall, found contributing factors to the riots on February 16 to 18 were anger at being brought to the centre, anger with the Abbott Government's policy on not resettling refugees in Australia and frustration in processing delays.
As APN has previously reported, processing times for asylum seekers in the offshore detention network doubled between the current government's election in September last year and February.
The report also found rising racial tensions between asylum seekers, G4S Security staff and Papua New Guinean officials added to already increasing tension at the centre in the months preceding the riot.
On the night Mr Barati was killed, the report found, Mr Barati was hit from behind by a Salvation Army officer with "a very long stick", before being repeatedly kicked by a range of guards, and then a "PNG local" dropped a rock on his head as he lay on the ground.
The report does not isolate a single factor causing Mr Barati's death, and Mr Morrison said it was up to PNG authorities to continue their investigations into the death
A statement from the Salvation Army released on Monday said as Mr Barati's death was now the subject of a criminal investigation, it was "inappropriate to comment".
But the Army condemned "any such behaviour" and if the report was correct, the actions of the officer were "not done with the knowledge or authority" of the Salvation Army.
Mr Morrison said he regretted Mr Barati's death during the second night of the riot, but that as Minister; he had already taken action on improving security on infrastructure at the centre recommended within weeks of taking office.
He said the report was clear that many asylum seekers were "severely beaten" by guards and PNG nationals during the riots.
The report also found that during the riot, mobile police squad officers had entered a compound at the centre, "shooting" guns in response to rioting asylum seekers, despite those asylum seekers being unarmed.
Mr Morrison said the government had already acted on several recommendations on the review, and other changes were being processed at the moment.
He said the changes already made would help to ensure the safety of those held in the detention centre, but he could not "guarantee" their safety, saying only it was "aspirational".
Labor's immigration spokesman Richard Marles said the government had "dropped the ball" on ensuring the safety of asylum seekers on Manus Island, despite the report finding the previous government did not act on key recommendations for safety and security at the centre.
"What needs to be answered by this government now is what actions did they take when they were warned," Mr Marles said.