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Asylum seekers have escaped the Manus Island detention centre for the second night in a row following violent clashes overnight.
Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said in a statement on Tuesday morning that the incident was more serious than the violent altercations that occurred the previous night when asylum seekers destroyed fences, tore down light poles and smashed bunk beds after clashes with security guards.
Staff were evacuated from the detention centre on Monday night and the asylum seekers who escaped may still be missing.
Thirty-five asylum seekers escaped and 19 were treated for injuries on Sunday night.
It is unclear how many asylum seekers escaped during the incident on Monday night. Mr Morrison confirmed that asylum seekers had again been injured.
”I am advised that there has been a further and more serious incident at the Manus Island processing centre overnight involving transferees breaching internal and external perimeter fences at the centre,” Mr Morrison said in a statement.
”I am advised non-essential staff were evacuated as a precautionary measure last night prior to any escalation of these events, when low level demonstrations resumed.
”The extent and nature of the subsequent events and perimeter breaches is still being verified. However, I am advised that all staff have been accounted for, our service providers are in control of the centre and there has been no damage to critical infrastructure or accommodation at the centre, which will enable the centre to resume normal operations.”
Lorengau hospital chief executive Dr Otto Numan said two asylum seekers were being cared for at the hospital.
One had an injury to his buttocks, while another sustained an injury to the right side of his face. ”I have not examined them myself, so I can’t say how serious,” he said.
Refugee advocate Ian Rintoul, citing reports from inside the camp, claims asylum seekers were attacked by police and locals.
”The perimeter fences were breached by locals, the centre had already been evacuated and PNG police and locals carried out systematic attacks, savage attacks on the asylum seekers last night,” Mr Rintoul told ABC News Breakfast.
”If there are asylum seekers outside the perimeter fence it’s because they’ve fled for their lives late last night from those attacks.
”Bashings, cuts from machetes, with sticks, gunshots were heard overnight.
”I don’t know of anyone being shot but people – one person we were told – was actually thrown off the first floor of one of the buildings.”
On Monday evening, asylum seekers said they were fearful of a violent attack by the local PNG police, which have been dubbed as the ”death squad”, and angry locals who they said would be wielding machetes, knives and guns.
The president of the Australian Human Rights Commission, Professor Gillian Triggs, told the ABC that the Australian government owed an obligation to those who were seeking asylum under international law.
”Australia owes an obligation of protection of those who seek asylum with us,” Dr Triggs said.
Local PNG MP Ron Knight said responsibility lay solely with detention security provider G4S.
”This shows that shoddy camp management and lack of responsible authority prevalent at Lombrum (naval base, where the facility is located),” he said.
Mr Knight said his staff were turned away from the centre when they tried to find out what was going on.
”Yes, all guards that turned back my staff are expatriate G4s staff,” he said.
Mr Morrison, who is visiting Darwin, said he would return to Canberra as soon as possible for briefings from the head of Operation Sovereign Borders Lieutenant-General Angus Campbell. He will hold a media conference from Darwin at 10am on the latest incident.
In Canberra, Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek said on Tuesday that Australians needed to hear details of the incident.
”We’ve got Australians working on Manus Island, and of course we’re concerned about any asylum seekers or locals who might have been injured or in any way in danger,” she told ABC radio.
The Greens immigration spokeswoman Sarah Hanson-Young told Fairfax Media on Tuesday that if the reports were true then Manis Island must be closed.
”Responsibility for this policy failure falls directly at the feet of the Abbott Government and the Immigration Minister,” she said.
”The government was warned about the toxic environment on Manus Island repeatedly by organisations like Amnesty International and the UN but those warnings were ignored and dismissed.”
with Sarah Whyte and AAP
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