Once again the Refugee Convention has become the whipping post for political discontent about boat people and “border protection”.
When the staff Australia hires to manage the refugee applicant ‘clients’ in our custody are themselves a bunch of notorious thugs who, predictably, take umbrage at some verbal trash-talk and retaliate by killing and bashing the trapped inmates, then Australia has a massive problem of delinquency in its ‘duty of care’.
Already the government has directed refugee decision makers to consider the government’s views on the safety of countries of origin, politicising and compromising decisions.
Facts on the recent riot at the Manus Island detention facility, and subsequent death of an asylum seeker, remain sketchy. It appears at the very least that live ammunition was employed by Australian-funded mobile squad officers, a paramilitary wing of the Royal PNG Constabulary, which has a well-earned reputation for brutality.
The horrifying allegations of rape and sexual assault at Manus Island detention centre underline the urgent need for more public scrutiny of Australia’s immigration detention centres. DIAC’s spokesman Sandi Logan told an ACIJ forum late last year it was “absolutely essential” journalists have access to Nauru and Manus Island.
Demanding an end to the government’s ban on journalists accessing Manus Island detention centre is building within the Austrlian media. But recently there were more disturbing reports of photographers being forced to delete their photos, and journalists being kept 1km away from the facility.
It’s an outrageous thought – a Prime Minister that publicly says: “A free press is not compatible with harassing journalists going about their ordinary business”, then proceeds to hinder independent reporting of facts in our detention facilities.
For the Abbott government Manus is a literal and political nightmare, as immigration minister Scott Morrison admitted he was unable to guarantee that there wouldn’t be further disturbances. Other countries, with much more serious pressures from asylum seekers, might wonder how Australia’s outsourced “PNG solution” has come to this. But there was an inevitability about it when detainees live in distressing conditions with no clarity about their future.
Morrison’s answer – that they should not have got on boats is beside the point.
People would seek to tear detention centres down; they would make wild allegations, Morrison said. He highlighted that “despite what is a terrible tragedy, the centre stands, the centre operates and the centre was operating first thing this morning.” Breakfast had been served.
The whole thing was cast as another front in the government’s border security war.
So far, a lot of detail is missing about what happened on Monday night. The Iranian died from head injuries but Morrison could not say how or where they were inflicted. Shots were fired by the PNG police, but the circumstances aren’t known.
The UN Refugee agency says the detention of refugees on Manus Island breaks international law.
Manus Island ‘bloodbath’.