By: Valerie Johnston | Photo: Refugee Action Coalition
On Friday the 14th of April, the Manus Island detention centre for asylum seekers was attacked by soldiers from Papua New Guinea. This fact alone was disturbing, but the Australian government’s official statement was that all bullets were fired into the air, and that no one was ever in any imminent danger. Just one month later, human rights activism group Amnesty International released images proving that this was not the case. Bullet holes found in the walls of the living areas are clearly photographed, while six videos reportedly taken during the event from inside the facility seem to indicate that the safety of the refugees was at risk that night.
Amnesty International reportedly did not reach out to the Australian government before publishing these findings; instead, an unnamed military expert is said to have reviewed the photos and video footage, and found it to be unaltered. The overall effect appears to be that both Australian officials and Papua New Guinea officials downplayed the event in order to hide the fact that asylum seekers are not safe within the walls of the Manus Island centre.
The Australian Immigration Department commented on the report by Amnesty International by saying that the matter was ultimately the responsibility of the Papua New Guinea government, and did not comment on the seeming cover up. There are no announcements regarding arrests or other action being taken against the soldiers responsible for the attack.
However, on the heels of this event, the Manus Island detention centre has been scheduled to close. Some of the more than 800 men still residing in the centre are being moved to a transit centre closer to Manus Island’s main populated area. For this action, extra Australian police have been deployed to prevent any unrest or trouble during the relocation.