By Sasha Pei-Silovo – EM TV Online
A report from an Australian senate committee has slammed the Australian government for allegedly “failing to protect” asylum seekers during the February riots at the Manus asylum detention centre.
The rioting and clashes were described as “eminently foreseeable” by the report.
The Australian Immigration and Border Protection Minister, Scott Morrison has hit back at the senate committee’s report stating that it “whitewashed” the mistakes of the previous government.
Morrison along with Australia’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Julie Bishop, Minister for Defence David Johnston and Minister for Justice Michael Keenan are in Papua New Guinea for the annual Australia-Papua New Guinea Ministerial Forum and Business Dialogue.
Among issues to be discussed, is the implementation of the Regional Resettlement Arrangement, seen as part of the Australian government’s solution to Australia’s boat people issue.
The report scrutinised the events leading up to the violent outbreak on February 16 to the 18th at the asylum detention centre which saw asylum seekers fight against guards and locals on the island of Manus. Many were injured and Iranian native Reza Barati was killed during the rioting.
The February occurrences at the Manus asylum detention centre “could have been prevented” if asylum seekers “had been on a clear pathway for assessing their refugee claims”, the report stated.
The senate committee report further claims that according to the evidence presented, the government of Australia had “failed in its duty to protect asylum seekers including Mr Barati from harm.”
Recommendations have been made for the government of Australia to allow the UN and Australian human rights commission to be given full access to the detention centre; and for those who have suffered violations of their human rights to be fully compensated.
The report also recommends for the improvement of training of staff at the facility.
Previously in May this year, an Australian government-sanctioned official report had established that the asylum seeker, Reza Barati, was killed as a result of being “brutally beaten” by a group comprised of guards and locals “who had entered the detention centre at the time of rioting”.
Two staff at the Manus detention centre were arrested for the Iranian’s murder but the death of Reza Barati has become a focal point for activists who continue to protest against Australia’s asylum seeker policies. The UN has also accused Australia of “shirking international obligations” and many have expressed numerous concerns over the conditions at these centres.
Australian Immigration and Border Protection Minister, Scott Morrison, while responding to the senate committee report, said that his Liberal-coalition government had inherited the detention centre’s problems when they took government, stating that it was “underfunded and incomplete and resettlement arrangements were little more than a blank sheet of paper”.
He described the ‘report’ as being made by a committee largely comprised of representatives of Australia’s opposition.
He said that the report was used by the Labor and Greens parties as a “blatant attempt to whitewash their own failures in government.”