by Allanah Leahy – EM TV Online
Minister for Foreign Affairs and Immigration, Rimbink Pato has welcomed a conclusion to escalating protests at the refugee processing centre on Manus Island.
Chief Migration Officer, Mataio Rabura was earlier directed by the PNG Prime Minister to assume the authority of administrator at the processing centre and resolve the conflict.
The move was praised as a ‘professional one’ by Australia’s immigration minister, Peter Dutton, who also mentioned that a ‘degree of force’ was used.
Minister Pato said Rabura took control of the situation and approved the entry of security personnel, who had backup police personnel, to “enter the compound and assist any person who did not want to be there”.
Some detainees were treated for dehydration and fatigue.
Fifty-eight men are being held at the Lorengau prison, and another 20 men have been detained ‘elsewhere’ on the island after ‘weapons, accelerant and petrol’ were found in their possession, The Age Australia reports.
Minister Pato had expressed concern particularly towards the asylum seekers who were unwilling to protest and were prevented from leaving. He assured that the government respected the detainees’ right to a peaceful protest but not, however, at the expense of the safety of other detainees.
“We could not permit agitators to act in a way that endangers other asylum seekers or staff.”
Minister Pato said it was only a minority who were responsible for the escalation of the protest, which reportedly included hunger strikes involving up to 700 detainees.
“Most genuine asylum seekers are peaceable people who simply want their refugee claims processed as quickly as possible so that they can start rebuilding their lives in Papua New Guinea.
“They have fled situations of conflict and do not want any part of the aggressive behaviour that the agitators have demonstrated. We will do all we can to help genuine refugees.”
Meanwhile, Australia’s immigration minister, Peter Dutton said reports of water shortages, broken water equipment and consequential water cuts were ‘complete rubbish’.
He thanked the PNG government for their ‘very impressive’ management of the situation.
“The PNG authorities as well as Transfield and my own departmental staff I think have acted in an exemplary way, but nonetheless the threat is ever-present and we are monitoring it,” Dutton told the ABC.
Minister Dutton also urged against the encouragement of self-destructive behaviour and said it would not help the situation.
“We send a clear message, particularly those ring leaders on Manus at the moment, and over the course of the last few days that have been causing significant disruption, that those people will not be settled in our country and I have said that publicly before and I repeat it again today,” Minister Dutton said this morning.
Reports of protests and disturbances have been contested. This prompted Australian Opposition leader, Bill Shorten to call for more transparency from the government regarding developments on the processing centre on Manus Island.