Weekly media round-up No. 26

On the weekend of 15-16 February, a riot broke out at the immigration detention centre on Manus Island. Twenty-three year old asylum seeker, Reza Berati, died and 77 others were injured. Thirty-five asylum seekers fled the centre.

On 18 February, immigration minister Scott Morrison said the violence occurred outside the camp perimeter. The minister emphasised the limited protection Australia could offer asylum seekers who had escaped the compound. Contractor G4S said asylum seekers breached the perimeter and the matter became a local law enforcement issue. The world refugee agency, UNCHR, expressed its concern in a statement. The minister announced a departmental inquiry into the riot.

On 22 February, the minister released a statement saying the events took place inside the compound, contradicting his statement five days earlier. PNG police fired shots twice during the event. The minister is under pressure to resign or be sacked due to his handling of the disturbance. Prime Minister Tony Abbott supported the minister, saying ‘[y]ou don’t want a wimp running border protection.’

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection accidentally published the personal information of 10,000 asylum seekers online. The minister for immigration ordered a review into the breach.

Amnesty International encouraged Australia to commit to accepting more than the stated figure of 500 Syrian refugees and expressed concern that Australia is placing Syrians on Manus Island.

Australian foreign minister, Julie Bishop, requested Cambodia accept asylum seekers. Her counterpart, Hor Nam Hong, said his country would seriously consider the request. Meanwhile, China criticised Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers, questioning the legality of return arrangements of refugees made by Australia.