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."

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