Greens to push for Manus Island centre inquiry

(Transcript from World News Australia Radio)

Suicide attempts, mass hunger strikes, escapes and self harm are among the numerous incidents reported at Australia’s asylum seeker detention centre on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea.

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The incidents – revealed under a Freedom of Information request – occurred at an average of every second day during a four-month period from March to June last year.

Refugee advocates say the situation in the Manus detention centre is now even worse.

Abby Dinham reports.

A report from the Manus Island Regional Processing Centre in April last year – marked as ‘critical’ – detailed one incident of self-harm.

It occurred just after a so-called transferee declared: “I can’t stay here”.

It was one of numerous reports of self-harm and threatened self harm documented in the first half of 2013, one of which involved a child.

Greens Immigration spokeswoman Sarah Hanson-Young says it’s a disgrace.

“The conditions inside the Manus Island detention camp are abhorrent, inhumane and as Amnesty International itself raised question as to whether it even equates to torture.”

The Manus Island facility was re-opened in November 2012 by the Labor government and was kept open by the now Coalition government as part of a harsh regime to deter asylum seekers arriving in Australia by boat.

The now Labor opposition says it resulted in a dramatic reduction in boat arrivals to Australia.

Ian Rintoul of the Refugee Action Coalition says the facility has failed to improve under Coalition management.

“The only thing they’ve done is to remove the children and the families. The tragedy is that they’ve left them in detention in Australia in any case. All the problems that existed that these Freedom of Information inquiries have revealed, all those problems are still there. The incidents of self harm, the desperation because there is no processing, the uncertain policy over the indefinite detention on Manus Island, the physical conditions are no better. The place was never fit for any type of detention centre and should be closed.”

During the period for which the reports have been obtained, it’s believed there were no more than about 300 asylum seekers held on Manus.

The federal government says the detention centre is now holding more than 1200.

Senator Hanson-Young says the situation on Manus is now significantly worse.

“The current Abbott government says they want to increase the capacity of Manus Island to include many thousands more people if it was such a horror scene at the detention centre with only a couple of hundred people. One can only imagine how much worse it’s going to get as those numbers grow and grow.”

Senator Hanson-Young says the Centre is in chaos and Immigration Minister Scott Morrison is trying to hide the truth.

She says the Greens will be pushing for a parliamentary inquiry into what’s been happening at the centre, including an incident last October involving a clash between officers hired to secure the facility, and PNG soldiers.

“Tony Abbott’s government is doing everything they can to cover up the truth, to cover up the facts. We know that in relation to the storming of the Centre by the PNG military that the Minister lied, directly lied about what had occurred. That is why when the Parliament resumes in February I will be moving for an independent inquiry to get the facts on the table and to get to the bottom of the story.”

The Immigration Minister issued a statement denying that those involved in the October incident were connected to the detention centre.

He also denied reports that the incident forced Australian staff to be evacuated from the centre.

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