Police attacked asylum seekers on Manus Island: rights group

Sydney, Jan 2 (IANS) Police officers in Papua New Guinea (PNG) physically attacked and arrested two Iranian asylum seekers during new year’s eve celebrations, said refugee advocates on Monday.

The Refugee Action Coalition said the two men suffered broken bones in the incident, and supplied photographs showing the pair with cuts and bruises on their faces, Efe news reported.

The attack was allegedly launched because the asylum seekers were outside the detention centre.

In a statement Monday morning, the NGO reported that the pair were released by police after more than 36 hours in custody.

Australian Minister for Immigration Peter Dutton, meanwhile, accused activists of using the incident to attack Australia’s immigration policy.

The policy includes the processing of asylum seekers in detention centres on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island, and the island nation of Nauru.

“If people have had an interaction with the PNG police on a new year’s eve night, I would wait to see the full facts of that case before I’d make any comment to say that they were targeted because they were refugees or because they were part of the Manus Island population,” Dutton told a radio station here.

The Australian government said an investigation into the incident was the responsibility of the Papuan police, but activists believe that such incidents are part of systematic abuse against the undocumented immigrants in Australia’s South Pacific detention centres.

Refugee Action Coalition spokesman Ian Rintoul urged the Australian government to provide “oversight on the role of the PNG police and the attitude of the PNG police” because it was “ultimately responsible for all the people who are held on the island”, according to Australian broadcaster ABC.

The alleged police attack follows the death of a Sudanese asylum seeker, who collapsed in the Manus Island detention centre, shortly before Christmas.

The UN and human rights groups have repeatedly criticised the existence of these detention centres and labelled the precarious living conditions as “inhumane”.

Many of the migrants detained in Nauru and Papua New Guinea have fled conflicts in countries such as Afghanistan, Darfur, Pakistan, Somalia and Syria.

While others have escaped discrimination or the status of being stateless persons, such as the Rohingya minorities in Myanmar and Bedoon from the Persian Gulf region.

They were detained before arriving on Australia’s coasts and sent to the offshore detention centres where their refugee applications were processed.