Brisbane protest calls for Manus Island closure

Protesters outside the Department of Immigration’s Brisbane office call for the closure of the Manus Island detention centre. Photo: Cameron Atfield Former senator Andrew Bartlett addresses a Brisbane protest calling for the closure of the Manus Island detention centre. Photo: Ashley Mackinnon

Refugee advocates have protested outside the Department of Immigration’s Brisbane office calling for the Manus Island detention centre to be closed after the death of a detainee.

The Australian and Papua New Guinea governments have announced inquiries after violent clashes between security forces and asylum seekers on the PNG island left one Iranian asylum seeker dead and 77 injured.

Refugee Action Collective spokesman Mark Gillespie said his organisation had been in touch with asylum seekers, who were allowed phone access, and staff on Manus Island.

He said details of recent events were sketchy.

“All the messages we’re getting from the asylum seekers themselves and the staff at the detention centre are saying it was more than just them trying to get out, that it was an attack on the centre,” Mr Gillespie said.

On Tuesday night, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison conceded it was unclear whether the attacks happened inside or outside the detention centre.

“I can’t give you an absolute position on that as there are some conflicting reports at the moment and once those are resolved and the reasons for those conflicts then I’d be in a position to report on it,” he told reporters in Canberra.

Mr Gillespie said the Brisbane protest was organised on Tuesday following the violent clashes.

“A person has lost their life on Manus Island and we think that’s just tragic,” he said.

“We put it out on Facebook and, in less than 24 hours, this is the turnout.”

Former Queensland Democrats Senator Andrew Bartlett, now the state convenor for the Greens, said he had “seen firsthand” the damage done during the Howard government’s Pacific solution.

“(It was a) deliberate policy of putting people beyond the reach of the law and beyond the reach of the media,” he said.

“What is happening now on Manus Island is clearly far worse than any of the harmful atrocities committed under the Howard government.

“This is an inevitable consequence of what happens when you dehumanise people, when you put them outside the reach of media and public scrutiny.”

Among the 50-strong protest was Julie Mauger.

“The government promised two things to the Australian people, that they’d stop the boats and that the PNG solution would work effectively,” she said.

“The riots on Manus and what’s happened this week has just shown that it’s simply not workable.”