Asylum seekers held at a Papua New Guinea detention centre briefly took control of two compounds and expelled guards following the death of a refugee who fell ill at the centre, Papua New Guinea police said on Sunday. Senior Sergeant Thomas Lelepo, from Lorengau Police Station on Manus Island, said guards at the Manus Island regional processing centre were expelled by residents last night.
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“There was a situation there … over the death of a resident,” he told Reuters by phone, adding that order had been restored. A 27-year-old Sudanese man, who was identified as Faysal Ishak Ahmed by refugee advocates, collapsed at the centre and was evacuated to hospital in Australia this week. Australia’s Department of Immigration and Border Protection said he died on Saturday.
The man’s death is not being treated as suspicious by Australian authorities, but detainees and refugee rights groups have claimed the man was seriously ill for months and had made repeated requests for medical assistance before the emergency. Under Australia’s tough border security policy, asylum seekers intercepted trying to reach the country by boat are sent for processing at the camps on Papua New Guinea’s Manus island and Nauru in the South Pacific. They are never eligible for resettlement in Australia. An Australian immigration department spokesperson confirmed an incident on Manus Island overnight.
“The Department is aware of a disturbance involving a group of residents in the mess area of Manus RPC,” the spokesperson said in a statement on Sunday. “The disturbance has now been resolved. There is minor property damage and no reported injuries.”
Photos posted to Facebook by Iranian refugee Behrouz Boochani, who is among the asylum seekers held on Manus Island, showed what appeared to be damage to a mess area inside one of the compounds. Mr. Boochani wrote: “We just kicked out the Wilson security from Delta and Oscar detentions. This message is for the government.”
The United Nations and human rights groups have condemned Australia’s immigration policy, citing human rights abuses in the centres on Manus Island and Nauru and prison-like conditions that have driven some detainees to attempt suicide. A total of 872 asylum seekers are held on Manus despite Papua New Guinea’s Supreme Court ruling in April that their detention was illegal and ordering the camps to close.