Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Questions raised over security firm G4S on Manus

Questions are being raised about the role of security firm G4S in events that left one asylum seeker dead and dozens injured, some seriously, at the Australian detention centre on Manus Island.

As reports of asylum seeker injuries have emerged from Manus Island, it remains unclear whether G4S, locals or police were responsible, and where the injuries were sustained.

SBS Dateline reporter Mark Davis reported late on Tuesday that staff at the Manus Island centre told him that the 'Mike' compound was attacked on Monday night "from the outside".

"I know for sure that many of [those injured] were innocent victims and were savagely beaten... my suspicion is that it is local G4S guards perhaps on some sort of rampage," Davis reported.

Davis said the staff were concerned for their own safety as people wielding sticks entered the detention facility.

G4S security firm had issued a statement on Tuesday claiming asylum seekers had been injured when they had left the detention centre. This follows reports that up to 35 asylum seekers escaped from the facility the previous night, but were recaptured.

Immigration minister Scott Morrison said on Tuesday "at the height of the disturbance [on Monday night], G4S staff withdrew to the internal perimeter, and the PNG police intervened with those transferees who had breached the external perimeter".

It remains unclear whether asylum seekers left the facility on Monday night, or whether detainees were injured while they remained inside the compound.

Many reports have referred to 'locals' entering the compound.  There are also reports that PNG police entered the compound.

Guardian Australia reported on Tuesday that people on Manus Island were alleging PNG police and locals attacked the detainees inside the centre.

Meanwhile, ABC's Papua New Guinea correspondent explained via Twitter that PNG police mobile squad operate inside the detention centre.

There are also conflicting reports about whether the asylum seekers were unarmed or had constructed make-shift weapons from material in the detention centre.

Davis reported that many of the injured asylum seekers suffered head injuries which appeared consistent with them being beaten with sticks.

He also reported that G4S guards had been instructed to lie to their families about events at the centre.

Davis visited Manus Island for SBS in 2013 and reported a "sense of disquiet that the refugees are suffering total imprisonment.  N0-one thought it would turn out like this".

Minister Morrison confirmed that PNG police "were reported to have fired shots" at 11:20pm on Monday night and again at 1am - one of which is believed to have caused injury to one asylum seeker.

100 security staff are on standby to assist the 130 security staff already employed at the centre.


ABC has reported a G4S guard's comments: from the ABC report:

"The serious violence happened when we went in to contain the situation. The clients outnumbered them and they can't contain the situation.
"So what we do is we all G4S local nationals and expats we just rushed in to save our counterparts. So that's where the trouble begin and the fight started."
The guard says Papua New Guinean and Australian staff working for G4S then entered the compound and serious fighting erupted.
"They are using their hands only, their hands to hit them... the clients," he said.
The second guard says force was used to contain the situation.
"There were too many of them in the compound because each compound contains about 400 clients in Oscar compound. About 50 per cent of the clients they were fighting, throwing things at us. So some of us were hit and we retaliated," he said.
"I have to save my friends from the clients because they were not playing."

Monday, February 17, 2014

Manus Island: what we do and don't know

Manus Island - Picture from DIAC
It is unclear whether PNG police and locals entered the Manus Island complex and were involved in the killing and wounding of 78 asylum seekers.

On Monday night, violent events took place leaving one asylum seeker dead, one with a fractured skull and another shot in the buttocks.

Refugee advocates claim that locals and PNG entered the detention facility and inflicted the injuries.  Immigration Minister Scott Morrison says this is incorrect.

 Security firm G4S says locals did not enter the facility and Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said PNG police did not entered the centre, but that injuries were sustained by asylum seekers when they escaped from the detention complex.

One of the key sources for the information relied on by refugee advocates was an asylum seeker who was evacuated from the centre for most of the day.

But refugee advocate Ian Rintoul says he has numerous statements from detainees and staff at the centre.

New Matilda is now reporting information from a "local source" that police entered the compound firing shots.  The course also reportedly claims locals resent the detention centre and were involved in aggression towards the detainees.   

What we know about events unfolding on Manus Island:

  •   More than 1300 detainees are currently on Manus Island – with no women or children.
  •  It is understood processing of asylum seekers’ claims is yet to begin.
  • Protests began on Manus Island on 25 January with detainees chanting for freedom and help.
  • There were reports in February that PNG police were called in to assist G4S guards deal with protestors.
  • 35 asylum seekers escaped the centre on Sunday night but were recaptured.
  • On Monday, eight asylum seekers were arrested and 19 were treated at the centre's medical clinic.
  • On Monday, some asylum seekers were evacuated from the centre and taken to a local oval.
  • The ABC has footage showing detainees gathered in a large group, some with covered faces, moving around inside a compound with police or guards outside.  Some objects appear to be thrown from the detainees – possibly a rock and a man is seen carrying a chair.
  • Scott Morrison confirmed on Tuesday that one man was killed and 77 injured in events at the detention centre on Monday night.  40 have been discharged from medical care.
  • 13 asylum seekers remain in hospital in a serious condition.
  • A man has a skull fracture and is being evacuated to Australia, while another person suffered a gunshot wound to the buttocks.

What we don’t know:
  • Did locals and PNG police break into the compound as suggested by refugee advocates? The security firm at the centre, G4S claims locals did not enter the compound.
  • How, where, and at the hands of whom was one detainee was killed?
  • What sorts of injuries were sustained by 77 wounded detainees?
  •  Were the injuries consistent with G4S practices?
  • Who fired the shots reportedly heard within the compound?

Friday, February 14, 2014

Former planning advisor tells Victorians to change their vote

Roz Hansen

A former key planning advisor to Napthine's government hit out at inadequate public transport funding in Victoria telling a Melbourne transport audience to change their vote.   

Professor Roz Hansen, former chair of the Plan Melbourne Advisory Committee, told dissatisfied Melburnians on Saturday to use pressure on politicians to deliver transport infrastructure. 

She said to “change your vote” when transport was not funded. “Don’t vote for them next time."

Hansen caused a stir in December when she told a Melbourne City Council meeting the majority of the state government’s planning advisory committee had resigned and dissociated themselves with the government’s Plan Melbourne strategy.

From May 2012 until August 2013, Hansen chaired the advisory committee selected by the Napthine government to oversee the development of the metropolitan planning strategy.

Countering Planning Minister Matthew Guy’s comment that “Roz has always had a problem with road transport”, she said it was “ludicrous to be saying I am anti-roads.”

But she said there is “too much focus on large road based projects that only meet the needs of some Melbournians.  Some will benefit, but many will not benefit”.

There are “real deficiencies”, she said, in public transport beyond the ten kilometre mark running the risk of social exclusion for residents living in middle and outer Melbourne.

“We need to service middle suburbs.  We need a bus rapid-transit system.”

Hansen argued Melbourne’s population was now expected to reach 7.5 to 8 million people by 2050 and the number of people using public transport, cycling and walking needed to double.

“It is ludicrous to be building green-field estates with bus stops and no buses.  It is socially irresponsible.”

She said Victoria should redirect funding from the East West Link across metropolitan Melbourne and “improve lives of people on a daily basis”.

“I am not anti the East West Link, but I am anti it being the number one infrastructure project.”

“Everyone has to lead on this.  Don’t let the politicians get away with spending money on road projects that benefit few,” she said.

Professor Graham Currie from Monash University’s Institute of transport Studies joined Hansen in lamenting Victoria’s funding on public transport arguing the current commitment to two bus routes and one rail link was “woefully inadequate”.

Currie and Hansen were speaking at a transport forum, Transport for 6 million, as part of the Sustainability Festival at Federation Square.