Armed PNG locals behind vicious attack on Manus Island
Tents at the detention centre on Manus Island, 2013. Photo: Jason SouthPNG locals employed by security guards at the Manus Island detention centre attacked asylum seekers with machetes, knives and rocks, an interpreter employed by the Immigration Department has claimed.
Azita Bokan alleges asylum seekers used plastic chairs as shields when they were attacked by locals who entered the centre as tensions spilled over on Monday night.
She said she saw asylum seekers who had suffered ”massive head injuries” when locals entered the centre after some detainees had pushed down a fence within the centre.
”Definitely, 100 per cent, I stand by the statement that the local people, including some employed by (security contractor) G4S, they were the ones who caused this drama,” Ms Bokan told Fairfax Media after flying out of Manus Island on Wednesday.
Ms Bokan said she did not witness the violence, but was in the area where the injured were taken, and was told injuries were caused by machetes, knives, rocks and table legs.
”There was blood everywhere. The number injured was horrific: people with massive head injuries, at least one with a slashed throat,” she said.
Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said he had no ”verification or any clarification” of the allegations. ”This is going to be a very difficult process … it was a very unruly incident,” he said.
G4S has said none of its employees were involved in Monday night’s disturbance. It has not responded to Ms Bokan’s allegations.
Ms Bokan says she had been employed by the department for 12 months and had been on Manus for a week. She claims that unrest on Sunday was sparked when the asylum seekers were told there was no prospect of resettlement in Australia, a third country or PNG.
In explosive claims, Ms Bokan also says the asylum seekers had not complained about serious mental and other health concerns for months because they were told that their claims would not be processed and that no other country would give them protection.
She claims many asylum seekers suffered headaches, ear infections and such serious dental decay they had had teeth pulled out by a local.
Ms Bokan says she intervened when guards attacked an asylum seeker the morning after Sunday night’s unrest, and implored authorities to ”let us talk and calm the situation down”.
”I said, ‘Just give them some hope’, but there was no hope to be given. We knew it was a bad night.”
She said she was ”disciplined” by the Department when she intervened on behalf of an asylum seeker. Documents show she was then suspended by the Department on Tuesday.
Ms Bokan said she was not allowed to speak to the media under the terms of her contract, but could not remain silent. ”I am seeking a lawyer to protect me because I know they will come after me with all that they have.”
The Immigration Minister has increased the number of security guards at the Manus Island detention centre by more than a third, following days of violence that left one asylum seeker dead and scores of others severely injured.
On Wednesday afternoon Mr Morrison announced he would be sending the commander of Operation Sovereign Borders, General Angus Campbell, and a team of private security guards to the Papua New Guinea island.
General Campbell will arrive in Manus Island on Thursday to assess the ”stability” of the centre, Mr Morrison said on Wednesday.
■ Senior navy officers and customs officials face possible disciplinary action over six incursions into Indonesian waters while turning back asylum-seeker boats.
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