One man was killed and 77 injured after police in Papua New Guinea opened fire on rioting asylum seekers in an Australian-run detention camp last night.
Thirteen people suffered serious injuries, two of which has been flown to Australia for treatment, after the the second riot this week at a detention centre on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea.
Australian officials says the riot began when detainees forced their way out of the centre, but refugee advocates insist it was sparked when local residents and police stormed the facility.
Australian Immigration Minister Scott Morrison described the violence as the latest in a series of protests at the camp, which houses around 1,300 men from countries including Afghanistan, Sudan’s Darfur region, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Pakistan, Somalia, and Syria.
‘This is a tragedy, but this was a very dangerous situation where people decided to protest in a very violent way and to take themselves outside the center and place themselves at great risk,’ he told reporters.
He said one man died from head injuries as he was taken to the hospital. He would not disclose the victim’s nationality, or say how he had sustained the injuries.
Another person was shot and was flown to the Papua New Guinea capital Port Moresby while one man was flown to Australia for treatment of a fractured skull, he said.
In all, 77 people received medical treatment including 13 who were seriously injured, he said.
Morrison initially said the injuries had occurred outside the camp but later said he was uncertain whether the fatal injuries had been inflicted within the camp or outside, adding that local authorities are investigating the matter.
Mr Morrison said Papua New Guinea police opened fire after detainees pushed down the perimeter fence and spilled into the street around the camp.
However, an Australian advocacy group said inmates claim to have been attacked by police and local residents.
Gangs of police and locals—armed with machetes, pipes, sticks and stones—had roamed from compound to compound within the camp attacking asylum seekers, Refugee Action Coalition said.
This was denied by Australian officials and security firm G4S, who operates the camp.
The violence followed a less serious brawl at the same facility on Sunday night that led to the arrests of eight asylum seekers and another 19 being treated for injuries.
Papua New Guinea is one of two South Pacific nations where Australia operates camps to house thousands of asylum seekers, a majority of whom have fled wars in the Middle East, and have tried to enter the country illegally via Indonesia.
Australia intercepts them at sea and sends them to camps at Manus Island or the tiny Pacific atoll nation of Nauru, while their refugee claims are evaluated with the aim to get them to settle in Papua New Guinea or Nauru.
The unrest at the camp in Papua New Guinea, which began late Monday and ended Tuesday, has heightened pressure on Canberra to close these camps.
The conditions in the detention centres in Papua New Guinea and Nauru have been citicised by UN agencies and human rights organisations.
Despite this, the Australian government is holding firm, saying the detention camp system is an effective deterrent against asylum seekers.