Exclusive Report – By New Matilda editor Marni Cordell
At least one person is dead and dozens injured after Papua New Guinean police opened fire at the Manus Island detention centre last night, a local source has told New Matilda.
Security force G4S had to pull out of the compound and local police “went in shooting”, the source said, describing the situation at the Australian-run centre today as “very bad”.
This contradicts the account of Immigration Minister Scott Morrison, who told media this morning that local police did not enter the centre and only dealt with asylum seekers who had escaped.
“I am advised that G4S were able to protect critical infrastructure and take control of the facility within the centre without the use of batons,” Morrison said in a statement.
He later confirmed there had been one death, with 77 injured.
Before the violence erupted last night, a detainee at the centre told New Matilda that he was “very scared” after being threatened by Manus Island locals.
“Local people come now to the compound, they have weapons, they want to make fight with us, threaten they will come at the nighttime,” he said.
He said many of his fellow detainees had been injured on Sunday, when protests erupted at the centre after a meeting with Australian immigration officials failed to provide detainees with answers on where and when they would be resettled.
“[On Sunday] night there are many injured people, more than 50,” he said. “Two of them they have really big injury at the neck and they in a very bad situation.”
“Local and police PNG and G4S [employees from] PNG were the ones that were doing the hurting. The [injuries] last night was the same as a war [injury].”
The detainee said many Australian G4S employees had also been injured on Sunday night.
“The Australian G4S tell us if there’s locals come to fight to with us, we are able to save ourselves, but without escaping out of the compound,” he said. “G4S Australia are good people but they are also very scared in this situation.”
NM’s local source confirmed before last night’s violence that PNG locals were “ready for a fight” and had come to the centre with weapons once before.
“They came with weapons about two weeks ago. The detainees’ protest and the chanting made them angry so they stood outside with weapons one night. They’ve been holding on to this for a while I think.”
‘Beat the crap’
“They are threatening to come inside and just beat the crap out of everybody – and [the detainees] are really scared of that,” the source said.
“The locals are really against the centre, they don’t understand what it is, they just see millions and millions of dollars being spent feeding and housing these people, and bringing all these people in to work just to house them. They just see all this money coming in,” they said.