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it's getting real ugly « Previous | |Next »
February 18, 2014

The Abbott Government's media clampdown-- a veil of silence---- on anything to do with asylum seekers and border protection means that it is hard to ascertain what is happening in the concentration camp at Manus Island in Papua New Guinea, a borderline failed state. These are asylum seekers waiting to be processed. If they were not found to be a refugee, neither the Australian nor PNG governments would help them resettle in PNG. We don't know what will happen to them if they are found to be genuine refugees.

What we can gather from reports is that tension has been simmering for weeks in the centre; that there have been consecutive nights of rioting; that asylum seekers rioted, broke down internal fences within the camp between the Mike compound and Foxtrot compounds and breached the fences whilst protesting about the status of their refugee claims and resettlement status. We also know that around 77 people are injured (most with head wounds), one man is dead from a gunshot whilst another had his skull fractured.

RoweDMorrison.jpg David Rowe

It also appears, from local reports, that the local Manus Islanders are angry enough about the concentration camp in the middle of their home island to go on a violent rampage – breaking into the camp and attacking the inmates with machetes and bats. It also appears that they were aided by the local PNG police. There have been different reports about who was responsible for the alleged attacks: G4S guards, the PNG police or local residents.

The Immigration minister, Scott Morrison, is basically denying that the concentration camp's fences were breached by locals and PNG police, who then carried out “systematic and brutal” attacks on asylum seekers. His account is that the asylum seekers rioted. Morrison's long and successful campaign of dehumanisation and demonisation against asylum seekers continues.

In The Guardian Jeff Sparrow observes that:

Australia has deliberately cloaked its detention centre archipelago in so many layers of secrecy that we know almost nothing about what goes on there. The camps are the equivalent of private businesses remotely located in foreign countries, and everything about them is designed to frustrate journalists seeking to report on them.

We know that the camps in a poverty-stricken foreign country known for chronic law and order problems are designed to be cruel, and that the asylum seekers are going to suffer. The Conservative base demands that the asylum seekers live a bare life--a life exposed to death. Australia wants to frighten further asylum seekers from coming to Australia with the promise that they will be sent to Manus.

Presumably the intensity and extent of the deterrence (and repression) under the Abbott Government will continue to escalate to the point where the inmates are reduced to a state of physical decrepitude and existential disregard that one hesitates to call them living.

It is becoming obvious that injuries to the incarcerated asylum seekers were caused by machetes, knives, rocks and table legs employed by local people, including some employed by [security contractor] G4S. It is also the case that the PNG police fired gunshots.

It appears that the Australian staff, including guards, left the scene and played no part in seeking a resolution to the problem. If so, then the asylum seekers incarcerated in the camp were left to defend themselves. Morrison appears to condone this kind of suffering when he blames the detainees for rioting. Order needed to be restored.

The "locals" appear to be employees of the security firm G4S hired by Australia to run the centre who were at times backed up by the PNG mobile squad. If the mobile squads are responsible for violence at the Manus Island facility, this is not an exceptional event, it is part of pattern in PNG. It is a pattern Australia has ignored, and when inclined, applauded and sponsored.

The logic of the camps is to create inhuman treatment and horror because that acts as a form of deterrence. The conservative base would see the inhuman treatment, deaths and suicides as what the asylum seekers deserve. They latter are bad people and they need to be severely punished by systematic violence of incarceration in a concentration camp. If anything the severity of the sanctioned violence should be made increased.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 11:55 AM | | Comments (20)


New Matilda's Ben Eltham makes 3 strong points:

"How Much Longer Will This Madness Continue?

In a functioning democracy, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison would resign over the Manus Island riot.

This is a low point in a decade-long campaign of dehumanisation, ..."

We have to stop this madness.

Australia will take no responsibility for the violence on Manus Island.

Well, this is a turn-up for the far the "riot" has been presented as a a prisoner-initiated thing (for the want of divergent info?).

It's about the time this Government picked a path and stuck with it. Either Benevolence or Brutality. What is it to be??? Just pick one and have the honesty to own it.... have the guts to acknowledge it.

By pretending to walk the middle path, the government is confusing the voters AND sending a mixed message to those wanting to come here. If deterrence is the aim, it's time for this government to go into full Gestapo mode! I'm sure the voters in the marginal seats would approve!

It does appear that the violence was the result of a pre-meditated attack on unarmed asylum seekers and that Australia has failed to provide protection for asylum seekers

The immigration minister, Scott Morrison, is basically denying that the concentration camp's fences were breached by locals and PNG police, who then carried out “systematic and brutal” attacks on asylum seekers."

The Immigration Minister Scott Morrison initially claimed that the protests were a clear attempt by asylum seekers to "completely disrupt operations" at the centre and denied the claims by the Refugee Action Coalition spokesman Ian Rintou, that theperimeter fences were breached by locals, the centre had already been evacuated, and PNG police and locals carried out systematic attacks,

Morrison is starting to give ground: he has conceded it was unclear whether the attacks happened inside or outside the detention centre.

The rationale for the Abbott government’s refusal to provide even basic information about its treatment of asylum seekers, is the absurd claim that Australia is engaged in some sort of war that justifies national security-style secrecy.

Morrison is seeking to use the location of Manus Island — on PNG soil — to deflect, evade and deny responsibility. They owe those incarcerated no duty of care at all.

Yet what happens to the 1340 men on Manus remains Australia’s legal and moral responsibility. International law states that Australia remains responsible for what happens to the asylum seekers in the countries we send them to.

"We don't know what will happen to them if they are found to be genuine refugees."

It appears that in its agreement with Australia PNG promises to “resettle” those asylum seekers it finds to be genuine refugees and not to send them to a third country where they would be in danger.

I would like to add to the excellent comment from Perry, by adding that outsourcing arrangements not only exist to protect the guilty, but contracting out to organisations like Serco is a lucrative affair.

Its clear that some of the locals feel that they are not benefitting from the detention centre on their island. It presents a difficult situation if the locals feel that the detainees are eating better than they are.

People are on the move (partly because of the senseless wars like Afghanistan and Iraq) and that global movement cannot be stopped.

Abbott + Co are being deliberately provocative to Indonesia in order to appeal to their conservative base.

If they were in genuine fear and genuine asylum seekers one would think they would be happy to settle in PNG as they have been offered.
But no, they want to come to Australia because they are economic refugees or people being sponsored by family already living in Australia.
Thank goodness there is an assessment process run by people that aren't gullible.

the refugees have not been offered settlement in PNG. That is the promise and the spin.

Discussions are ongoing between Australia and PNG on that very issue. So far the PNG government has refused to commit to wholesale resettlement of Manus Island detainees. PNG has not agreed to resettle them.

In the meantime the processing of asylum seekers at Manus Island is proceeding very slowly.

So it is unclear how you know, and are certain, that the asylum seekers on Manus Island are either economic refugees or people being sponsored by family already living in Australia, as opposed to genuine refugees.

"Abbott + Co are being deliberately provocative to Indonesia in order to appeal to their conservative base."

The Abbott Govt is saying that the vessel commanders conducting Operation Sovereign Borders wouldn't know the location of sovereign borders, even though Australian vessels overshot the 12–nautical mile maritime boundary by more than 4 miles, with their lights out.

Australia's six "inadvertent" incursions into Indonesian waters , says the Whitewash report, rose from incorrect calculation of the boundaries of Indonesian waters, ather than as a deliberate action or navigational error.

Ho ho. Is the navy protecting Australia's borders from the threat of invasion that incompetent? Isn't that trashing the navy?

Nanna Gary,
How many of the boat people have sought asylum in Indonesia. If they are all genuine then why aren't they happy to stay there. Surely they will not be persecuted there.
This is why we have a professional assessment process with trained personnel making decisions based on a set formula.
If you are going to throw out the assessment process in this you may as well throw it out for everything. licencing, court action, police investigations, universities, training the list goes on.
And yes it takes a long time. That is because its a deterrent because the government doesn't want them here and certainly doesn't want a reputation in the world as a country that is soft on people turning up with persecution stories especially at present while there is so much chaos going on in many countries.

I'm certain no-one will be surprised by this, but it is absolutely inconceivable that the commanders of those Australian ships miscalculated the position of Indonesia's borders. I daresay that the Navy is privately very unhappy about taking the rap for the (probably illegal) orders they have been given, and obeyed.

While service personnel are able to disobey illegal orders, it's ... career-limiting ... and being found innocent at the consequent courts martial would be a very poor compensation for the loss of all career prospects.

Tony Abbott says in relation to Manus Island that ''We will ensure that these camps are run fairly. They will be firm if necessary,'

So allowing the 'mobile squad'' to use gun butts and batons against the asylum-seekers --and to shoot them--is being firm and fair? Presumably you have to be to be brutal to be fair.

Morrison is quite happy with the inhuman treatment and the violence of the security guards. This means that the deference system is working by creating horror.