Response to the incident and subsequent developments
This chapter examines the response of service providers, PNG authorities,
the department and the minister following the events of 16-18 February 2014 at
the Manus Island RPC. It also discusses developments at the centre in the
weeks and months following these events, including the transition of garrison
and welfare service providers to Transfield Services (Transfield).
Response of service providers and immediately after the incident
The committee received evidence in relation to several issues and
actions taken by service providers at the centre in the aftermath of the
violent incidents at the centre.
Additional health practitioners
IHMS deployed nine additional mental health practitioners to Manus
Island RPC to deal with the psychological impact of the events of 16 to 18
February on the asylum seekers, particularly an increase in the number of
people suffering from post‑traumatic stress disorder.
However, some evidence to the committee suggested that access to mental health
professionals remained inadequate in the weeks after the incidents of 16 to 18
February 2014. A case worker who was deployed to the Manus Island RPC after the
incidents and worked there until at least 9 March 2014 stated that:
To my knowledge, at the time I was on Manus Island there was
only one psychologist or mental health nurse available to the 1300 detainees
and one STTARS (torture and trauma) counsellor. Given the numbers of
traumatised men this was totally inadequate.
In response to questions on this issue, IHMS stated that, at the time of
the disturbance in February 2014, its mental health team on Manus Island
included: six mental health nurses, one psychiatrist, one psychologist, three
Additional security personnel
In response to the events of the night of 17 February, 100 additional
security staff were placed on standby for possible deployment to Manus Island.
51 of these additional staff were subsequently deployed to Manus Island on 19
and the remaining 50 had been deployed by 23 February 2014.
Access to telephones and the
Several submitters and witnesses told the committee that asylum seekers'
access to the internet was interrupted for several days after the incidents.
For example, Amnesty International submitted that:
After the violence, access to the internet was turned off
(one report claims from 17 February to 3 March), preventing the asylum seekers
from contacting the outside world.
The department submitted that the disruption to telecommunications
services, including the internet, was a result of damage to telecommunications
equipment which occurred during the incidents of 16 to 18 February and that
repairs to this equipment were completed by 7 March 2014.
PNG criminal investigation
In a press conference on the afternoon of 18 February 2014, the Minister
for Immigration and Border Protection confirmed that Prime Minister Abbott had
spoken with PNG Prime Minister O'Neill earlier that day in relation to the
incident at the Manus Island RPC, and that Prime Minister O'Neill had given an
assurance that appropriate investigations would be undertaken by PNG
authorities wherever appropriate.
On 20 February 2014 minister Morrison stated:
The Papua New Guinea authorities will be conducting an
appropriate police investigation, particularly into the matter of the person
who is deceased, which is entirely appropriate, and we've had those assurances
from none less than the Prime Minister. And our Attorney-General will be
liaising with PNG to provide whatever assistance they need, if they request it,
to ensure those investigations are thorough and complete and get to the heart
of those matters.
Involvement of the AFP and service
As noted in chapter 5, the criminal investigation of the events of 17
February was the responsibility of the PNG police. However, the Australian
Federal Police (AFP) made a broad offer of assistance to the PNG police in
relation to the investigation. The AFP described the assistance which was
requested and provided:
...on 21 February, the AFP received a request for assistance
with respect to the capability of undertaking a post-mortem. Upon receipt of
that we arranged for the deployment of two Victorian Institute of Forensic
Medicine personnel to travel to Papua New Guinea to assist the PNG coroner with
undertaking the post-mortem of the deceased. The VIFM personnel travelled to
PNG on 23 February 2014. On 24 February 2014 a post-mortem of the deceased was
completed. The following day, on 25 February, as part of normal practice the
forensic pathologist travelled to Manus Island and met with the coroner and, I
understand, also, consistent with undertaking the post-mortem, reviewed the
site of the alleged incident.
An AFP officer indicated to the committee that it had also declined a
subsequent request from PNG police in late March 2014 to be further involved in
[A] request was made of the AFP to undertake what I would
couch as being an independent witness during interview of some witnesses. The
AFP declined and offered some alternative solutions...We offered a number of
alternatives, noting that the AFP does not have operational jurisdiction and it
would confuse the situation for the role of the AFP. That was understood and
accepted by the [Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary]. It was a matter for them
to make arrangements. We suggested that they could use other sources of
witnesses, such as social welfare providers, the IHMS or other diplomatic
consular assistance, and the RPNGC accepted that advice.
Transfield also indicated that it had been requested to facilitate
access by PNG police to staff and transferees at the centre as part of their
Arrests relating to the death of Mr
The Cornall Review noted that, by the end of April 2014, 'some PNG
police investigations, including interviews with transferees on Manus Island,
were well advanced'.
In August 2014, Australian media outlets reported that PNG police had
arrested two suspects and charged them with murder in relation to the death of
Mr Barati. The two individuals charged were reported to be a former
Salvation Army employee, Joshua Kaluvia, and Louis Efi, another PNG national
believed to have been a G4S employee at the time of the incident.
It was also indicated that three more individuals were still wanted by police
in relation to the incident, one Papua New Guinean and two expatriates.
One of the suspects who was charged had reportedly fled Manus Island and
travelled across PNG in an attempt to avoid capture before being arrested.
In early November 2014 it was reported that the trial of the two
suspects charged with the murder of Mr Barati had been delayed after the two
suspects were not provided with a lawyer at a court appearance.
Other assaults that occurred during
In his review of the incident, Mr Robert Cornall AO indicated that he
had received 270 feedback forms from transferees in relation to the incident,
and had compiled all of those forms which contained allegations by transferees
that they were the subject of a criminal offence, as well as those forms
containing statements by transferees that they witnessed criminal offences
against other transferees. This and other relevant material was provided by Mr
Cornall to the RPNGC in Port Moresby on 7 May 2014.
In relation to G4S employees that may have been involved in the violence
against transferees, Mr Darren Boyd from G4S informed the committee that
G4S had provided information to the PNG authorities in relation to the
incidents, however it was largely unclear which individuals had been involved:
Mr Boyd: I think the efforts we have gone to have been
twofold. One is that any information that we actually have received we have
provided to the PNG police. But, on the second part of that, the accounts that
we have actually got just seem to refer to G4S PNG locals or nationals. They do
not name specifically who those PNG people are.
Mr Boyd: Before we departed the island, we have at
different times had some accounts provided to us that potentially had some—I
cannot say if they had names on them, but they certainly had information on
them that we deemed relevant and we provided that directly to the police as the
correct authority to investigate exactly what happened that night.
Senator SESELJA: But from an employer perspective, you
obviously do not have enough information to even take disciplinary action
against any of your staff, quite aside from any criminal potential action.
Mr Boyd: That is correct.
The committee is not aware of any arrests or charges being laid in
relation to other assaults perpetrated on transferees during the incidents of
16‑18 February 2014.
Response of the department and the minister following the incident
The terms of reference for the committee's inquiry include the
involvement and response of both the department and the Minister for
Immigration and Border Protection, the Hon Scott Morrison MP, in relation to
the violent incidents that occurred from 16 to 18 February 2014 at the Manus
Island RPC. This section of this chapter examines the public statements made by
the Minister in the aftermath of the incidents, some of which were factually
incorrect, with reference to the information available to the department during
the incidents and in the days following.
Public statements by the Minister
for Immigration and Border Protection
On the morning of 18 February 2014, the minister issued a statement in
relation to the incident at Manus Island RPC on 17 February. The minister
stated that he was advised that there had been a more serious incident
overnight 'involving transferees breaching internal and external perimeter
fences at the centre'. The minister further stated 'that during the events PNG
Police did not enter the centre and that their activities related only to
dealing with transferees who breached the external perimeter'.
This statement did not mention that a fatality had occurred during the
The minister subsequently held two press conferences on 18 February
2014, one during the morning in Darwin, and a second on the afternoon of 18
February in Canberra following further briefings. At the first press conference
in Darwin, the minister stated that one person was confirmed as deceased
as a result of a head injury sustained during the incident, and that this
'injury was sustained outside the centre'. The minister also referred to
another serious injury involving a gunshot wound to the buttock of a
transferee, stating that the 'gunshot wound occurred also outside the centre
The minister stated further:
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 centre and place themselves at great risk. In those situations our
security people need to undertake the tasks that they need to undertake to
restore the facility to a place of safety and equally those who are maintaining
the safety of the security environment outside the centre need to use their
powers and various accoutrements that they have available to them in order to
restore in the way that is provided for under PNG law.
...clearly the outcome where someone has absconded, gone outside
the safety of that facility and put themselves at risk, resulting in such a
tragic outcome is terrible. 
In relation to whether PNG police had entered the centre, the minister
[M]y statement early today made it very clear there were no
PNG police inside the centre last night. That is the report that was provided
to me overnight. That is the information that I have available to me. So the
suggestion that PNG police were in the centre is not correct on the information
that I have.
G4S have advised that there was no one who came from outside
and sought to disrupt or attack people on the inside which lead to the
perimeter fence being breached.
At the subsequent press conference in Canberra, later the same afternoon,
the minister gave a more detailed chronology of events, noting:
The demonstration flared again at around 9.45pm local time
with transferees pushing down internal fences between compounds...A number of
transferees moved from the facility to the adjoining road where they had also
pushed down fences...
Just after 11.20pm local time PNG police were reported to
have fired shots. At around midnight local time, at the height of the
disturbance, G4S staff withdrew to the internal perimeter and the PNG police
intervened with those transferees who had breached the external perimeter. At
1am the PNG police were once again reported to have fired shots, at 2am order
was restored to the centre.
When questioned whether he could guarantee the safety of transferees at
the centre, the minister stated:
I can guarantee their safety when they remain in the centre
and act co‑operatively with those who are trying to provide them with
support and accommodation. When people engage in violent acts and in disorderly
behaviour and breach fences and get involved in that sort of behaviour and go
to the other side of the fence, well they will be subject to law enforcement as
applies in Papua New Guinea. But when people co‑operate and conduct
themselves appropriately within the centre then yes I can.
The minister rejected reports that individuals outside the centre had
pushed down fences and entered the centre in order to attack transferees:
That's not consistent with the reports that I've received, in
particular I'm aware that those reports say that the fence was pushed over from
outside with people allegedly trying to come in to attack those who were
inside. That is not how the fence went down, as I've been advised.
The minister acknowledged that there were 'conflicting reports' about
where the deceased transferee had sustained his injuries. The minister also
announced that a full review of the events would be initiated by the
On 21 February 2014, the minister announced that the independent review would
be undertaken by Mr Robert Cornall AO.
It was not until late on 22 February 2014 that the minister issued a
media release confirming that 'the majority of the riotous behaviour that
occurred, and the response to that behaviour to restore order to the centre,
took place within the perimeter of the centre'.
At a press conference in Sydney on 23 February 2014, the minister offered
an explanation as to this change from his initial reports, stating that that he
had received the updated information in relation to the incident the previous
day, and 'over the course of the day...went through a process of when that
information could be made available and I could be confident that when it was
released it was accurate'.
The minister further clarified on 24 February 2014 that:
...over the balance of the week, I received further information
and on Saturday [22 February] I received information that made it clear that it
was essential to correct the record, which I did on Saturday.
Information provided to the
department and the minister
During this inquiry, the department provided the committee with
situation reports and incident reports from the department and G4S as well as
internal departmental correspondence, generated during the incidents of 16-18
February and in subsequent days.
G4S also provided the committee with a summarised version of its chronology of
events for the afternoon and night of 17 February, based directly on the
Emergency Control Organisation (ECO) log made during the incident.
These documents provide further context for the public statements made by the
Minister in the days after.
The two main points of contention relate to:
where the violence and riotous behaviour occurred on the night of
17 February (outside the centre, as first stated by the minister, or
inside the centre as he later acknowledged); and
whether the PNG police entered the centre and were involved in
quelling the disturbance inside the centre.
It should also be noted that the written records provided to the
committee do not represent the sum of communications between staff on Manus
Island and departmental and service provider staff in Australia; the department
noted that 'a number of teleconferences took place during the night of 17
February 2014 and early into the morning of 18 February 2014', involving
members of the ECO at the centre, departmental staff in Canberra and G4S
head office in Melbourne.
Departmental situation reports, G4S
chronology and incident reports
Departmental officers filed at least 21 situation reports (SitReps) in
relation to events on Manus Island at various times during 16-19 February 2014.
Two of these reports contained incorrect information relating to transferees
breaching perimeter fences and the role of PNG police on the night of 17
SitRep #12, made at 8.50 pm AEDT time (9.50 pm PNG time) on the evening
of 17 February 2014, included information that transferees in Mike compound had
begun to 'push the fences down' at 9.44 pm, and at 9.45 pm 'transferees
breached the fences and moved onto Paugrash (sic) road', before being moved back
into the compound by the emergency response team.
The ECO occurrence log made during the incident, provided by G4S, noted
at 9.44 pm 'Mike Transferees rush low fence to Green Zone trying to breach
fence between Mike and Foxtrot',
and contained no reference to transferees breaching an external fence and
moving onto route Pugwash. The ECO log states that the fencing between Mike and
Foxtrot compounds was subsequently broken through at 10.01 pm.
The next SitRep provided by the department, made at 4.30 am AEDT on
18 February 2014 (5.30 am PNG time), included information that:
- All staff were evacuated from the facility when the situation
deteriorated about midnight. The PNG Police mobile squad took action to restore
order to the site and encourage transferees to return inside the perimeter of
- It is believed several hundred transferees were involved in the
disturbance, with a number of those moving from the facility to the adjoining
- At the height of the disturbance at about lam, the PNG Police
fired shots. PNG Police did not enter the facility at any time.
These SitReps give the impression that a significant proportion of the
unrest and riotous activity had occurred outside the centre, as well as
explicitly stating that PNG police were involved in returning transferees to
the centre and taking other actions to attempt to quell the disturbance,
without actually entering the centre.
In response to a question on these issues, the department stated that
reports provided to it by G4S staff at the RPC during the incident formed the
basis of the information used in the departmental SitReps, including that PNG
police had not entered the centre and that transferees had breached the fences
at the centre.
The department stated further:
G4S led the teleconferences over the course of the evening of
17 February 2014 and morning of 18 February 2014 to discuss the unfolding
situation on Manus... During the teleconferences held between 1:30 am and 6:00am
on 18 February 2014, the information that RPNGC did not enter the centre was
provided by G4S onsite.
G4S' chronology of events from the night, as well as a G4S incident
report subsequently created on 18 February 2014, noted that PNG police
units had been sighted in Mike compound by members of the G4S incident response
team at 11.27 pm.
G4S noted that a departmental officer was present with G4S and other
service provider staff in the Command Centre at the RPC on the night of 17
February, and as such was 'privy to all of the radio reports, verbal reports
and discussions which took place in the Command Centre'.
Clarifying information relating to
the events of 17 February
The veracity of some information in the departmental SitReps from the
events at the centre was being questioned internally by the afternoon of 18
February. The department informed the committee that G4S provided it with a
copy of the ECO occurrence log at 1.32 pm on 18 February 2014, information
which alerted the department that the police mobile squad had entered the
compound during the incident.
G4S told the committee that it had alerted the department that PNG
police had entered the centre even earlier than this, stating that it informed
departmental officials during a teleconference at approximately 10.30 am on the
morning of 18 February that PNG police had breached the fence of Mike compound
and entered the centre the night before.
Copies of communications provided to the committee by the department
show that on 19 February, departmental officials in Canberra requested further
information from staff on Manus Island in relation to the chronology of events
for the incident on 17 February, noting that some information in the
SitReps provided on the night conflicted with information in the G4S log of
The information provided by G4S and departmental staff on Manus Island in
response to this request clarified that the G4S chronology stating that the police
mobile squad had entered Mike compound during the incident was correct
(contrary to SitReps #12 and #13 provided by departmental officials on the
Copies of communications provided to the committee by the department
reveal that several requests for information were made by the minister's office
in the days after the incidents at the Manus Island RPC. An internal
departmental email on the afternoon of 19 February 2014 notes a request for
information from the minister's office in relation to how many police were
deployed on the night and how many G4S guards were involved in the use of
while a further email on the same afternoon notes an 'urgent request from
the MO' (minister's office), asking how many sweeps and searches were
undertaken of the Manus OPC in the preceding week, as well as how many walk
throughs were undertaken by police and when those walk throughs started.
Some submitters asserted that the minister's early statements in
relation to the events at the centre had sought to unfairly blame asylum seekers
for the violence ultimately perpetrated against them during the incidents of
16-18 February by emphasising riotous or aggressive behaviour on the part of
transferees. For example, the Human Rights Law Centre argued:
[I]n the immediate aftermath of the incident the Minister of
Immigration and Border Protection made comments which appeared to seek to shift
blame for the violence to its victims...
The focus on asylum seekers' behaviour during that important
period in the immediate aftermath of the events had the potential to colour
subsequent investigations into the events and undermine their perceived
independence. Equally, victim-blaming took the place of what ought to have been
a comprehensive review by the Government of its own responsibility and the
steps to be taken to ensure such events are never repeated.
Transition to Transfield Services and subsequent developments
As noted in chapter 2, a decision was made in late 2013 to replace G4S
and the Salvation Army as garrison and welfare service providers at the
Manus Island RPC, with Transfield Services (Transfield) taking over
Transfield took over operational responsibility at the Manus Island
centre on 28 March 2014 following a transition period with G4S and the
Salvation Army, which occurred from 22 February 2014.
Transfield representatives informed the committee that the initial stages of
this transition was limited to the welfare aspects of the contract, and the
Salvation Army's contract to provide services at the Manus Island centre
officially finished on 20 March 2014.
Mr Fraser Douglass, Executive General Manager, Government Business at
Transfield, outlined to the committee Transfield's priorities in operating at
the Manus Island centre:
It is a responsibility that we take extremely seriously, and
for us there are two key priorities. The first is to take a humane and
respectful approach to the provision of services. A strong set of values guides
our behaviours and decisions, no matter where we are or what we do. This
applies to all of our employees, particularly our front-line workers, who
deliver services on our behalf.
Our second key priority is to provide the best possible
environment for transferees in both centres, given the resources available and
the scale of this large and complex support operation. We are highly
experienced in efficiently and effectively managing facilities and remote
locations around the world, and often at the end of complex logistics supply
chains. With that in mind we do not take for granted the welfare and security
challenges involved in this particular case.
Recommendations of the Cornall
Review relating to Transfield
Several of the recommendations made by the Cornall Review of the events
of 16‑18 February 2014 were directed specifically to Transfield as
the ongoing provider of garrison and welfare services at the centre. When asked
about how it was implementing those recommendations relating to its activities
at the Manus Island RPC, Transfield provided the following response:
Transfield Services can advise that as a part of normal
business we are, by default, addressing various issues raised in the Cornall
Report. All specific recommendations that Cornall has made are subject to
Department of Immigration and Border Protection approval and direction.
Accordingly Transfield Services is awaiting the Department of Immigration and
Border Protection's approval and direction prior to implementing any specific
More specific information in relation to the implementation of some of
these recommendations was provided by the department, as follows.
Role of security service provider,
provincial police and police mobile squad
The Cornall Review recommended that Transfield Services (and its
security services subcontractor, Wilson Security), the RPNGC provincial police
and the mobile squad clearly establish and understand their respective roles
and responsibilities in regard to the maintenance of law and order within the
Manus RPC (including agreement on a process for handover and handback of an
incident that is beyond the control of the garrison security provider and the
levels of force to be used).
In relation to advancing these arrangements, the then departmental
Secretary Mr Martin Bowles PSM stated:
[This recommendation] has been progressed through a number of
measures. These measures include regular engagement between stakeholders,
weekly meetings of the joint intelligence group and desk-based exercises to
name a few. I am also advised that Transfield have established a police liaison
officer for the sole purpose of directly engaging with the PNG provincial
police and mobile squad.
Interactions between service
providers and transferees
The Cornall Review made several recommendations in relation to actions
to be taken by the department and Transfield in order to improve interactions
with transferees. These were:
that the department encourage and support initiatives by
Transfield Services to maximise the opportunity offered by the change of
service providers to restore trust and cooperation between service providers
that the department and Transfield improve communication with
that Transfield consider recommendations made in other reports
about conditions and possible welfare improvements which can be made at the
centre and, where practical, implement those welfare improvements it considers
that Transfield assist transferees to replace personal items lost
or stolen during the incidents.
Mr Bowles informed the committee in relation to some of these matters:
In keeping with Mr Cornall's recommendations to encourage and
support initiatives to restore trust and cooperation between service providers
and transferees, the department has supported Transfield to introduce a number
of initiatives. These included opening the gates between compounds to provide
transferees with greater access to friends in other compounds and the
opportunity to engage in external excursions. Transfield have implemented a
significant cultural shift in the way the security team engages and interacts
with transferees, with a strong emphasis on the engagement in a respectful and
considered manner. Similarly, Mr Cornall recommended improvements to
communications with the transferees. I am pleased to advise the PNG's ICSA,
which is their immigration service, my department and Transfield continue to
work collaboratively to enhance communication with transferees. For example, in
developing a recent video presentation to transferees outlining the PNG refugee
determination process. I understand this presentation was well received.
Engagement of staff involved in the
violence between 16 and 18 February 2014
The Cornall Review recommended that Transfield carefully considers all
the information provided to it by the Cornall Review to ascertain if it has
unwittingly engaged employees who have been identified as assaulting
transferees between 16‑18 February 2014 and, if so, deal
appropriately with them (including dismissal).
Transfield informed the committee that while it had not compiled a
definitive list of people it believed to have been present at the centre during
the incidents, it understood that 'at
least 19 of its expat staff were previously employed by others and were likely
to have been at the centre on the night' of Mr Barati's death.
Transfield further advised the committee that it had not rejected any person's
application for employment at the centre on the grounds that that person
carried out an assault on the night of 17 February 2014.
Mr Derek Osborn from Transfield explained:
We have worked very hard through a number of processes
through our recruitment process to do everything we can to ensure that anyone
who was involved in an assault has not been employed by Transfield Services...We
have undertaken a range of things [to ensure that]. Obviously, we have got a
range of witness information. We have been able to talk to a range of
stakeholders on the island. We have been able to interview people. We have
obviously conducted our own interviews and asked people to sign stat decs and
those sorts of things. We have gone through a series of processes to ensure
that we have done everything we can.
When asked whether its employment checks also covered subcontracted
security staff employed by Wilson Security, Mr Osborn stated that Transfield
has not overseen the recruitment of those staff directly, but that it has
required Wilson Security 'to be absolutely certain that they have done everything
possible to ensure that anyone who was involved in the assaults over the course
of the nights is not to be employed'.
Other evidence presented to the committee contested the claim that no
individuals involved in assaults on asylum seekers were now employed at the
centre. Humanitarian Research Partners (HRP) contended that 'at least two of
the alleged 17 February assailants are now back working in the centre and
terrifying their victims by their mere presence'.
Mr Ben Pynt, Director of Human Rights Advocacy at HRP, told the committee that
asylum seekers at the centre had reported to him on multiple occasions that
perpetrators were still working at the centre.
Mr Pynt expanded:
[The transferees] do not feel that they are being adequately
protected by the guards that are employed at the centre. In fact, they feel
threatened by a number of the guards at the centre. I know of one story that
chilled me to the bone. An asylum seeker contacted me shortly after he had been
to medical. He was in Mike compound. From Mike compound you get in the back of
a ute and they take you through to IHMS, because you are not meant to walk
through. He got into the ute, screamed, and got out of the ute, because the
person driving the ute was one of the people who attacked him. This is
happening all the time. The mental harm that is created simply by having the
attackers remain at the centre is unbelievable and unconscionable.
Community engagement and training
The Cornall Review made two recommendations in relation to community
engagement and training, namely:
that the department puts in place a comprehensive and continuing
community liaison program to more fully inform the local population about the
RPC and the direct benefits it brings to the Manus community; and
that Transfield implements a comprehensive and ongoing training
program for PNG national staff to develop their professional skills and improve
their future employment prospects.
In relation to enhancing liaison with the local community, Mr Bowles
informed the committee that the department already had a permanent community
liaison officer in place at the Manus centre, and that the duties of this
officer had been enhanced in line with Mr Cornall's recommendation.
In relation to providing training opportunities for PNG national staff, Mr Bowles
Specific training and development obligations are part of the
Transfield contract. In line with this obligation, I am informed that
Transfield have been in discussions with the Lorengau TAFE to develop work
placement opportunities. I also understand that Transfield are looking at
opportunities to assist with agricultural type initiatives, which may include
community projects or school-based projects. Additionally, Decmil, the managing
contractor of the construction work, provides a professional development
training program for PNG local staff employed on its sites, and IHMS, the
health services provider, has initiated a range of training programs for local
RSD processing and resettlement
The Cornall Review recommended that current measures and any further
initiatives which will expedite the finalisation of PNG refugee status
determinations and resettlement and removal processes be implemented as quickly
as possible with appropriate assistance.
Mr Bowles informed the committee that 'the department continues to work
closely with the PNG government to expedite the finalisation of PNG refugee
determinations and settlement and removal processes'.
Despite these efforts, the Minister for Immigration and Border
Protection noted on 10 September 2014 that 'there remain difficult and
frustrating problems' in attempting to establish a resettlement program in PNG:
The resettlement plan has now been before the PNG Cabinet for
several months, following the extensive consultations conducted by their Expert
Panel...It is important that this now proceed.
We remain committed to working through the remaining issues
with the government of PNG to ensure that the agreement delivers the
resettlement of refugees in PNG in return for the increased aid and
infrastructure funding that is being delivered.
On 20 October 2014, a statement from the Papua New Guinea Prime
Minister, the Hon. Peter O'Neill CMG MP, noted that a refugee resettlement
policy had still not been finalised:
[D]ue to lack of understanding and support for refugee
resettlement in PNG communities [Prime Minister O'Neill] has instructed that a
new policy be prepared with increased focus on consultations and building
public awareness and support.
Prime Minister O'Neill stated that this new policy would not be
considered by cabinet until after comprehensive public awareness campaigns and
consultations are completed.
As noted in chapter 4, the PNG Minister for Foreign Affairs and Immigration,
the Hon Rimbink Pato MP, made final refugee status determination decisions for
ten transferees on 12 November 2014, the first final decisions to be handed
down for individuals detained at the Manus Island RPC. However these
individuals have still not been offered permanent settlement in PNG, instead
receiving a 12 month refugee visas and being moved from the Manus Island
RPC to a newly constructed facility in East Lorengau. It was announced
that these refugees would also be given language and cultural training and help
finding jobs in PNG.
Comcare compliance inspections
Site inspection in December 2013
Prior to the events of February 2014, an official from Comcare had conducted
a site inspection of the Manus Island RPC in December 2013 in order to
review workplace health and safety arrangements at the centre. The Comcare
inspector's report recommended several changes be implemented at the centre to
manage health and safety risks to workers and third parties, including to:
removal of an old kitchen facility and remediation of a surrounding
area of ground contamination;
construction of security fencing in the area of the kitchens;
rectify an apparent design flaw in the new kitchen facility at
the centre and removal of built-up mould in the kitchen;
improve security capability at the RPC entry gate; and
improve systems for tracking workers present at the Bibby
Progress accommodation barge.
The report also observed that office and administration facilities at
the centre were cramped and subject to high temperatures. Further, it observed
that IHMS's capability to provide contracted health services seemed to be under
strain due to the increase in transferee numbers without a proportionate
increase in medical services provision capability, and in particular that
IHMS's capacity to deal with a critical injury or mass casualty event was
Documents provided to the committee also show that a staff member at
the centre raised further WHS concerns with Comcare in January 2014, noting
harsh conditions at the centre, lack of sanitation facilities and the risk of
contracting infectious disease. Comcare responded by noting that it was
monitoring the ongoing WHS environment at the centre and would take the
concerns into account in future monitoring activities.
Compliance inspection following
Following the incident of 16 February to 18 February 2014, Comcare
initiated a compliance inspection to determine whether the department had
breached the Workplace Relations Act 2011 (which governs workplace
health and safety requirements for Commonwealth employees) in relation to the
incident. Comcare did not conduct a site visit to the centre as part of this
inspection, but did inspect a range of material in relation to the incident,
including documents provided by the department and G4S and the report of the
Comcare finalised its inspection in June 2014, finding that:
the department 'provided a safe workplace as far as reasonably
practicable' at the RPC;
the department 'exhibited no control over the events that transpired
between 16-18 February that led to the death of Mr Barati'; and
it was 'apparent that the injuries and death that occurred were
the direct result of criminal actions, not as a result of inadequate WHS
practices, processes or systems'.
The inspection report recommended that consideration be given to
implementing the recommendations from the Cornall Review, particularly those
recommendations with a direct or indirect relationship with workplace safety,
and that a series of recommendations made in a 2013 review of the Nauru RPC be
adapted and implemented at the Manus RPC. It also recommended that Comcare
inspectors undertake a further site visit to the Manus Island RPC prior to the
end of 2014.
Other developments in operations at the Manus Island RPC
Submitters and witnesses commented on several aspects of ongoing
operations at the Manus Island RPC in the months after the events February
2014, including the ongoing impact on asylum seekers at the centre, and access
to healthcare and other services at the centre.
Ongoing impact on asylum seekers
detained at the Manus Island RPC
The committee heard evidence that re-traumatisation is a significant
issue for asylum seekers held at the Manus Island RPC, particularly after the
events of 16‑18 February, for individuals who have previously
experienced persecution in their home countries. Mr Ben Pynt of HRP commented:
Retraumatisation is a huge problem at Manus Island. It
occurs, as you rightly say, from the events that they experienced in their home
countries that made them flee in the first place, from the trauma of the boat
journey... Then there are the events of 16 and 17 February that left people with
a profound sense that nothing they can do can make them safe. It is
retraumatisation on a daily basis when they see locals from outside the centre,
through the fence making the sign of slitting their throat, or staff members
who are within the centre threatening to kill them. I do not think I can
describe how profoundly it affects the men. They are at breaking point.
Some research that we have recently conducted shows that
about 60 per cent of asylum seekers have a history or trauma before they arrive
in Australia. On Manus Island I would say, after the events that have occurred,
it would be close to 100 per cent.
The committee heard further that many asylum seekers were not sleeping
or had taken to keeping guard during the night out of fear of further attacks.
Mr Pynt commented:
[P]eople are still keeping guard at night. There is somebody
in each of the hard-shell tents and somebody in each of the rooms who stays
awake at all times, because they are petrified of being attacked again.
Submitters and witnesses who claimed to be in contact with asylum
seekers at the centre reported numerous instances of attempted suicides or
serious self‑harm at the centre in the weeks and months following the
Allegations of mistreatment and
interference with witnesses
Media reports in September 2014 detailed the use of a "managed
behaviour area" outside the main centre by Transfield to isolate
aggressive or non-compliant asylum seekers.
Further reports contained allegations from an asylum seeker held at the Manus
Island RPC that he and another transferee had been forcibly held in this area
for three days and subjected to beatings and threats, allegations which have
been denied by the Australian Government.
It has also been reported that asylum seekers who wish to return home
and have provided witness statements to PNG police in relation to the death of
Mr Reza Barati have been told that they may not leave PNG until the
investigation and judicial process is complete,
and that other witnesses have been either threatened or offered inducements in
order to withdraw their statements.
Concerns relating to healthcare treatment
at the centre
As discussed in chapter 3, concerns were raised by submitters and
witnesses in relation to the adequacy of healthcare services at the Manus
Island RPC, particularly in relation to delays in transferees receiving
appropriate treatment. Amnesty International submitted that this is an ongoing
issue for transferees who were injured during the protests:
Amnesty International continues to receive first hand
testimony to the effect that injuries sustained during the violence are not
being adequately cared for and detainees are not receiving sufficient or
appropriate access to medical care. It is entirely unacceptable that months
after this horrific event, the victims may be forced to endure constant pain
and suffering due to receiving little in the way of care.
Transparency and access to the Manus
Several submitters and witnesses raised concerns in relation to the
difficulty associated with access to the Manus Island RPC.
Limited access for lawyers and
Amnesty International noted in its submission that on 27 February 2014,
the National Court of PNG launched a human rights inquiry under section 57
of the PNG Constitution into conditions at the Manus Island RPC.
Under the auspices of this inquiry, Justice David Canning visited the Manus
Island RPC on 21 March 2014, accompanied by representatives from Amnesty
International, the Human Rights Law Centre (HRLC) and Australian journalists.
This inquiry was subsequently challenged by the PNG government in the PNG
Supreme Court, preventing the inquiry from continuing.
HRLC noted that the 21 March 2014 visit is the only instance of
journalists being allowed inside the centre since the centre reopened in
Prior to the grant of specific orders by the National Court of
Papua New Guinea in a recent Court case, no Australian journalist had been
granted access to the RPC. It also took court orders for lawyers from the PNG
Public Solicitor's office to be granted access to speak to their clients inside
It is a matter of great concern that achieving this minimal
level of access to an Australian built, funded and run facility has taken
forceful orders from the National Court of another country.
Further orders from the National Court of PNG in March 2014 to allow access
to the centre by an Australian barrister seeking to represent some asylum
seekers held at the centre were also blocked, with the barrister refused entry
to the Manus Island RPC and subsequently deported from PNG on the basis
that he did not have a certificate to practice law in PNG.
Representatives from the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA) argued that access
to the centre should be granted in such cases:
Mr [Jay] Williams was the barrister who went to PNG. That was
particularly troubling. One would have thought that the Commonwealth ought to
be making it very clear to the government of Papua New Guinea that properly
qualified lawyers from Australia ought to be able to have access to clients on
Manus Island and they should not be subjected to violence or threats of
violence, as was the case with Mr Williams.
Dr Andrew Morrison from the ALA expressed particular concern that asylum
seekers who had been injured in the violence in February 2014 had not been
given adequate access to legal advice:
In relation to the individual rights of those who were
injured, it is very troubling that there has not been access to lawyers even
for those brought back to Australia. In some cases the most seriously injured
have not been able to speak to someone who can tell them what their rights are...
[P]eople should have access to legal advice and an opportunity to pursue any
rights they might have.
The HRLC argued that the Australian Government should proactively work
with PNG to increase transparency and access to the centre:
Transparency is vital to ensuring scrutiny and accountability
for the conditions in which asylum seekers are being detained. It is also vital
to the Australian people's ability to evaluate current asylum seeker policy and
the manner of its implementation...
The Australian Government has maintained that access to the
RPC is a matter for PNG. Australia built the centre and underwrites it at
considerable taxpayer expense. Asylum seekers are only detained therein because
Australia sends them there. Australia plainly has a responsibility to push for
independent scrutiny of their treatment.
The Australian Government should work with PNG to ensure
appropriate access, not hide behind PNG sovereignty when access is denied.
UN Special rapporteur official visit
In addition to lawyers and journalists being barred from access to the
Manus Island RPC, submitters also referred to the fact that the UN
Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions was denied
access to the centre during a visit to PNG in March 2014, and was unable to
meet with G4S or asylum seekers at the centre.
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