Australia to send home body of asylum seeker

Body of Iranian man killed during violent breakout from detention center to be sent to family.

Last updated: 21 Feb 2014 09:25
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Prime Minister Tony Abbott has said he will not bow to "moral blackmail" [AFP]

The body of an asylum seeker who was killed in a violent breakout from an Australian-run detention camp on Papua New Guinea will be repatriated to his family in Iran, an Australian official has said. 

Reza Barati, 23, sustained fatal head injuries on Monday night as hundreds of asylum seekers pushed down a perimeter fence to escape the camp on Manus Island, off the coast of Papua New Guinea.

Border Protection Minister Scott Morrison said on Friday that Australia would repatriate Barati's body to Iran at his family's request, after an autopsy in Papua New Guinea.

The Australian Embassy in the capital Port Moresby conveyed the sympathies of the Australian government, according to AP news agency. 

News Corporation newspapers in Australia reported on Friday that Barati might have been killed by guards who stomped on his head as he lay defenseless on the ground.

The newspapers cited an unnamed Australian guard at the camp accusing locally-hired guards of attacking Barati in a frenzy. 

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said yesterday that he would not succumb to "moral blackmail" despite graphic witness accounts of the violence.

There was blood everywhere. The number injured was horrific - people with massive head injuries, at least one with a slashed throat

Azita Bokan, eyewitness

A man who said he witnessed the violence, but did not want to be identified, claimed PNG guards employed by the G4S security company running the centre became angry when asylum-seekers shouted insults about their country and family members, the Agence-France Press news agency reported. 

"When they pulled them outside they started beating them with the sticks... some of them with sticks and some of them with all these hose, rubber hose and pipes," he told ABC radio.

Condemned as 'inhumane'

An interpreter employed by the Australian Immigration Department said asylum-seekers used plastic chairs as shields when G4S guards attacked them with machetes, knives and rocks.

"There was blood everywhere. The number injured was horrific - people with massive head injuries, at least one with a slashed throat," Azita Bokan told Fairfax Media after flying out of Manus Island Wednesday  in comments that appeared to back what refugee advocates have said.

G4S said in a statement that "we take these allegations seriously and we as a company do not tolerate violent or abusive behaviour from our staff". 

But it added: "Our personnel on duty during the disturbances acted with courage, strength and determination to protect those in our care."

All the escaped asylum seekers were now either in hospitals or back in the camp, Morrison said.

Both Australia and Papua New Guinea are conducting investigations. The UN has condemned the camps as inhumane and called on Australia to close them. 


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