Iran General NewsSadness over asylum seeker Reza Berati’s death on Manus...

Sadness over asylum seeker Reza Berati’s death on Manus Island

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The Telegraph – AU: Berati, 23, was killed on Monday night after it is believed he was stomped in the head by riot police during a protest that had steadily got out of hand over two days and nights.

 

The Telegraph – Australia

By Paul Toohey on Manus Island

As Immigration Minister Scott Morrison confirmed the body of asylum-seeker Reza Berati would be repatriated to Iran according to his family’s wishes, the people of Manus Island have expressed sadness that the violent death has drawn unwanted attention to their peaceful home.

Berati, 23, was killed on Monday night after it is believed he was stomped in the head by riot police during a protest that had steadily got out of hand over two days and nights.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison confirms the asylum seeker who was killed during the Manus Island detention centre outbreak was 23 year old Iranian man, Reza Berati.

Manusians have expressed anger that the riot police — a crack squad based in the PNG Highlands who typically wade into Highland tribal skirmishes or hunt killers and rapists — were even on their island, feeling they were too heavy handed to deal with vulnerable people seeking protection.

But they also came to the defence of unarmed local guards working G4S, the security contractor engaged by the Australian government to work inside the centre, and who have been accused of joining the riot police in the violence.

Manusians said that locals working for G4S had not been given proper training to handle mass disturbances by their employer.

“They did not know what they would face inside the centre (and they had) only one or two weeks’ training,” said a woman who gave her name as Jane, who has relatives employed as guards at the facility.

Both the riot police and the G4S staff were said to have felt confronted and insulted as they dealt with outraged asylum-seekers throwing rocks, yelling insults about their country and burning their national flag.

After some asylum seekers attempted to break out of the low-security facility, the riot squad moved in firing rounds and teargas. In the mayhem, Berati, whose role in the riot is not known and whom Mr Morrison said arrived on Christmas Island on July 24 last year, was killed.

Multiple people were left badly beaten and one man survived being shot.

Immigration minister Scott Morrison says eight asylum seekers were arrested, and 19 received medical attention after the Manus Island escape on Sunday night.

Berati fled Java by boat only days after former prime minister Kevin Rudd made his declaration that no person who came to Australia by boat would ever settle in Australia, though they could live in PNG, or some other country that accepted them, if found to be refugees.

The rioting apparently began on Sunday when they were told after demanding answers that not even PNG would take them, although Mr Morrison has denied they were ever told that.

After more than 25,000 came by boat to Australia from June 2012 to June 2103, Berati’s boatload represented the end of the rush, slowed by Mr Rudd and since stopped altogether under Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s turnback policy.

Questions are now being asked as to whether Australia or PNG holds responsibility for the actions of the Highlands riot police, who operate external security at the Manus Island centre on Australia’s behalf.

G4S, which is about to end its contract at the detention centre, has disputed claims its PNG staff were responsible for any violence, saying they acted with courage.

But it added it would not tolerate violence from its staff and supported Immigration Minister Scott Morrison’s investigation into the riots, which left a 24-year-old Iranian man dead and many others injured.

The company responsible for security at the Manus Island detention centre has hit out at allegations staff.

PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has suggested that no local person was to blame for any of the violence.

Clearly, trouble was not expected at the detention centre, because it is set up as a processing facility, not a prison, with only the most basic perimeter cyclone fences that are easily scaled.

The detention centre has brought mixed blessing to the island, located in the Bismarck Sea north of the PNG mainland.

Originally, say locals, the first memorandum of understanding proposed by former prime minister Kevin Rudd included a “Manus Package”, which would see island schools renovated, roads upgraded and the airport brought to international standard.

None of that has yet happened, with a general “PNG Package” instituted instead. Locals are upset to hear that Australia will build a new hospital at Lae, on the mainland, while no new infrastructure has hit the ground in Manus.

Even the road to the detention centre is little more than a rough goat track.

Locals are also disturbed that the Highland riot squad is not answerable to the local Manus police command, which is now dealing with the fallout and who have expressed anger that the Abbott Government had not provided proper security contingencies at the centre.

News Corp understands a group of eight asylum-seekers are on hunger strike in the local police station, and the police are struggling to deal with them.

Manus is a place of many churches but most people are Roman Catholic.

“It is in our culture to look after people,” said Livingstone, a local landowner. “We do not commit this kind of violence.”

People say they do not remember having these kinds of troubles in Pacific Solution I, when a smaller camp existed from 2001 until Kevin Rudd closed it in early 2008.

Livingstone said locals had benefited from the centre — and from the second facility now under construction, which will hold families — in terms of employment and some minor contracts to supply materials.

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