Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | News Flashes | Scoop Features | Scoop Video | Strange & Bizarre | Search

 


The Manus Breakout: The Limits of the Gulag

The Manus Breakout: The Limits of the Gulag

by Dr. Binoy Kampmark
February 19, 2014

Australia’s Immigration Minister, Scott Morrison, is no anthropologist. Nor is his government, which prefers the philosophy of hobgoblins to constructive policy. Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s officials are finding the running of their semi-colonial processing centres for asylum seekers difficult – they (they, being the aspiring unwashed of the Refugee Convention) keep coming, and the police installations are incapable of keeping them under control.

The asylum seekers Canberra long to keep on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea, are not having a bar of it. They are tired. They are angry, and they are disgusted. The message that they receive is that Australia will not accept their claims, even if they are legitimately found to be refugees. The ludicrous suggestion is that they will find residence in PNG, a country with a vast array of social and institutional problems. The dysfunctional environment is ripe for revolt, and the Australians are hoping that PNG officers and foreign contractors will be their handy mercenaries.

The unrest at the detention centre on Manus Island had been building up. For several days, the detainees breached fences, both external and internal. Views on the build up of disaffected violence vary, with suggestions that the detainees did not instigate it, but were merely responding to attacks being made by PNG police and locals from outside the centre.

The violence peaked on Monday. Shots were fired. There was a fatality. 77 people suffered injuries, 13 seriously. Accounts vary – security firm G4S had to retreat from the compound, leaving local police, and an unconfirmed number of locals to “move in”. Sources suggesting that shooting took place on entering the compound contradict the record of the immigration minister. According to Morrison, “G4S were able to protect critical infrastructure and take control of the facility within the centre without the use of batons.” G4S further claims that any claims of “internal attacks” are unfounded.

Refugee advocates have given various accounts of mass violence orchestrated by machetes and knives. Refugee Rights Action Network’s Victoria Martin may have been ramping the rhetoric up with her suggestion that it was a “massacre”, but the impact was felt by inmates. Ghulam Mustasa, one of the detainees, had rung his brother at 11.40 pm. He was filled with terror, claiming “they will kill us”.

G4S, the British company dealing with security assumes itself to be on par with the British or Dutch East Indies Company, a thug operating with a degree of impunity across Asia and the Middle East. Its website calls it, “The world’s leading international security solutions group.” Its primary aim is “Securing Your World.”

The company has had enough difficulty being secure about itself. It has proven to have a ravenous appetite for scandal. It is being investigated by the UK Serious Fraud Office over two contracts. Last November, it admitted to overcharging the UK taxpayer to the tune of £24.1 million for tagging dead criminals. That charming bungle added to its less than ordinary performance during the London 2012 Olympics (The Independent, Feb 18).

The security firm has proven to be incompetent and brutal. A whistleblower within its ranks came forth last July, outlining to the Australian SBS program Dateline instances of sexual assault within the facility. An independent review followed, one which found wide spread instances of self-harm, protestation and lip sewing (The Guardian, Nov 1, 2013).

Last January, G4S guards were found mocking an asylum seeker who had swallowed a pair of nail clippers. The messages were posted on Facebook. “Merry Christmas all,” came the comment from one of the guards, Darren Powell. “One of these jokers just swallowed a pair of nail clippers” (The Guardian, Jan 31). Another employee, the very suitable named Jason Drain, had a wish. “I want to be his escort to the shitter when he passes them.” It is with scant comfort that three of those guards no longer work with the firm – G4S could, at best, reproach them for having misused social media platforms.

The conduct of the security company has cost it its contract over running the centre. That said, it has secured and retained its full fee – according to two separate contracts with AusTender, an amount totalling $240 million (The Guardian, Feb 5). So much for the rigours provided by the law of contract.

Morrison has shown no inkling that he, or the Australian authorities, can manage the centre with its bubbling rage and its accumulating brutalities. The processing system for asylum seekers, a brutal policy that insists on expelling arrivals to far flung centres in Manus and Nauru, is unravelling. It will take more than tenders to security companies to resolve this unnecessary humanitarian calamity. Australia does, after all, retain a non-delegable duty of care under refugee law. The Abbott government, like its predecessors, is yet to notice.

*************

Dr. Binoy Kampmark was as Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 

Valerie Morse: Key And NZ Police At G20: What A Contribution

While 200 New Zealand police officers are helping to repress protests outside of the G20 in Brisbane this week, John Key has been inside pushing the interests of giant multinational corporations to fast track the World Trade Organization (WTO) ... More>>

ALSO:

Gabriela Coutiño: Ayotzinapa Caravan Meets With EZLN In Oventic

In their visit to Zapatista Territory, parents of the 43 students disappeared from Ayotzinapa Guerrero, agreed with the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN), to articulate a national grassroots movement that would question forced disappearances ... More>>

Ramzy Baroud: Talk Of A Third Intifada: Where To From Here, Palestine?

When a journalist tries to do a historian’s job, the outcome can be quite interesting. Using history as a side note in a brief news report or political analysis oftentimes does more harm than good. More>>

ALSO:

David Swanson: Who Says Ferguson Can't End Well

Just as a police officer in a heightened state of panic surrounded by the comfort of impunity will shoot an innocent person, the Governor of Missouri has declared a state of emergency preemptively, thus justifying violence in response to something ... More>>

Melanie Duval-Smith: Homeless Is Where The Heart Is

So, you are not allowed to feed the homeless on the streets of Florida. Last week, a 90 year old man and two Christian ministers were arrested for doing just that. I can hear the cries of the right wingers from here. “Not in our back yard”, ... More>>

John Chuckman: What We Truly Learned From the Great War and the Absurdity of Remembrance Day

No matter what high-blown claims the politicians make each year on Remembrance Day, The Great War was essentially a fight between two branches of a single royal family over the balance of power on the continent of Europe, British foreign policy holding ... More>>

Redress Information: A European Call To Suspend EU-Israel Association Agreement

More than 300 political parties, trade unions and campaign groups have called on the European Union to suspend its “association agreement” with Israel. The agreement, which came into force in 2000, facilitates largely unrestricted trade with Israel ... More>>

Ramzy Baroud: The Age Of TV Jokers: Arab Media On The Brink

As I was finalizing my research for this article, I found myself browsing through a heap of hilarious videos by mostly Egyptian TV show hosts Tawfiq Okasha and Amr Adeeb. More>>

Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news