Iranian asylum-seeker beaten to death: Australian review

An independent review on behalf of the Australian government found no particular factor caused the violence at a camp that has been condemned as too harsh by the United Nations.



By (AFP)

Published: Mon 26 May 2014, 12:10 PM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 2:04 AM

A review into a riot at an Australian detention centre on Papua New Guinea found Monday that an Iranian man was “brutally beaten” to death by a Salvation Army worker and warned of a major task to rebuild trust.

The unrest at the Manus Island camp in February also left 69 people injured as tensions flared among inmates about their fate under Australia’s hardline asylum-seeker policies.

An independent review on behalf of the Australian government found no particular factor caused the violence at a camp that has been condemned as too harsh by the United Nations.

“It is not possible to isolate one factor which, if handled differently, may have resulted in less injuries and damage or to apportion blame for causing the incidents directly to one or more of the parties involved,” it said.

But it added that frustration and anxiety over a lack of information about resettlement policies and dismay among inmates at hearing they had no chance of living in Australia contributed to the tensions.

There was also antagonism between some in the camp and PNG nationals working there, with some asylum-seekers treating them “in a disrespectful and racist manner”.

Manus Island houses one of two remote Pacific camps used by Canberra in its punitive offshore detention policy, the other is on Nauru.

Under the policy, any asylum-seeker arriving by boat is transferred to the centres for processing and permanent resettlement.

The review said tensions had been building for days ahead of the riot and 30 to 35 transferees escaped on February 16. They were recaptured and one inmate had his throat slashed by a guard. He survived.

The following day a protest turned violent with PNG police entering the compound and opening fire, during which Iranian man Reza Barati suffered a severe brain injury after a brutal beating.

The review cited an eye-witness who said the beating was “led by an identified PNG national employed by The Salvation Army and he named several other witnesses who he says can corroborate his statement”.

The review recommended authorities expedite procedures to determine who were genuine refugees and resettle them as quickly as possible. It also said those held must be kept fully informed about their status.

The report added that “a large number of assaults were committed during the disturbance, mainly on transferees” and no charges had yet been laid.

It said there was a “major task ahead” to rebuild trust between the centre operators and inmates and charges against those responsible “will play a large part in restoring that trust”.

Australian Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said Canberra would abide by the report’s recommendations with “significant improvements” already initiated at Manus and the first refugee determinations handed down last week.

The latest immigration department figures, to the end of April, show there were 1,273 would-be refugees being held on Manus Island.


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