Breakout at Australia's PNG detention centre

Fences knocked over and bunk beds used as weapons during the incident, on Papua New Guinea's Manus Island.

Last updated: 17 Feb 2014 06:03
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The United Nations refugee agency has condemned the Australian detention centres in Papua New Guinea [AFP]

A number of asylum-seekers have been injured and some arrested after escaping from an Australian immigration detention centre on Papua New Guinea's Manus Island. 

Australian Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said on Monday that 35 people escaped on Sunday evening, but that they were quickly rounded up by private security contractors at the facility, one of two remote Pacific camps used in Canberra's punitive off-shore detention policy.

"A full face-to-photo identification has been conducted and all transferees have been accounted for," Morrison said, according to AFP news agency.

If you don't want to be in immigration detention, don't come illegally to Australia.

Tony Abbott, Australian Prime Minister

Eight detainees were arrested over the disturbance and Morrison said 19 were presented to the medical centre for treatment, "none of whom were exhibiting life threatening conditions". 

"As at this morning, five of those transferees remained at the clinic. A number of G4S (security contractor) staff also sustained minor injuries", he added. 

Morrison said power poles and fences were toppled during the fracas and bunk beds were smashed to fashion makeshift weapons, but there was no destruction of accommodation. 

Though security staff used "personal protection gear", Morrison said no weapons were used.

Any asylum seeker arriving by boat or intercepted at sea is transferred to Manus or Nauru for processing and resettlement outside Australia. 

Permanent home

The breakout followed a tense meeting at the centre between detainees and officials from Papua New Guinea's immigration and citizenship authority to discuss their fate if they were found to have a genuine refugee claim.

Morrison said detainees "became agitated and commenced chanting" after they were informed they would be resettled in Papua New Guinea and "a third country option will not be offered".

"If you don't want to be in immigration detention, don't come illegally to Australia," Prime Minister Tony Abbott told Australian Broadcasting Corp radio on Monday according to Reuters news agency. 

Morrison suggested that the Manus facility could become a permanent home for some of the 1,340 currently
housed there.

"It's not restricted to being a temporary accommodation," he said. "If people are resettled (in PNG) then that's a possibility, but those sorts of details haven't been confirmed."

The United Nations refugee agency has condemned Australia's camps on Manus and Nauru as "harsh" facilities that "impact very profoundly on the men, women and children housed there",  and asked for information from the government, warning that Australia could be breaking international law if it is forcing boats back to Indonesia without proper regard for safety.

Many of those trying to reach Australia have fled conflicts in Afghanistan, Darfur, Pakistan, Somalia and Syria.


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