CANBERRA, Australia – An asylum seeker was killed and scores were injured when a violent protest ended with a breakout from an immigration detention camp run by Australia on the South Pacific island nation of Papua New Guinea, an official said Tuesday.
One asylum seeker had died from head injuries as he was taken by ambulance to the hospital, Australian Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said. It wasn’t clear what his nationality was, or how he had sustained the injuries.
Two other seriously injured asylum seekers – one with a gunshot wound and the other with a fractured skull – would be flown to Australia for medical treatment, Morrison said.
In recent years, thousands of people seeking asylum in Australia have attempted to reach the country by boat, mostly from Indonesia. The government has intercepted them at sea and sent to detention camps at Manus Island, part of Papua New Guinea, or the tiny Pacific atoll nation of Nauru.
Morrison said the injuries had occurred outside the camp on Manus Island during violence that ended early Tuesday morning. He described the violence as the latest in a series of protests at the camp, which houses more than 1,000 inmates, in recent weeks.
The number of security guards had been increased last week, which Morrison said had prevented the camp from being destroyed.
“This is a tragedy, but this was a very dangerous situation where people decided to protest in a very violent way and to take themselves outside the centre and place themselves at great risk,” he told reporters.
The violence followed a less serious brawl at the same facility on Sunday night that led to the arrests of eight asylum seekers and another 19 being treated for injuries.
Morrison said 77 people received medical treatment after the latest violence and 13 had been seriously injured.
Ian Rintoul, spokesman for the Australian advocacy group Refugee Action Coalition, said he had spoken to inmates inside the Manus camp and was told asylum seekers had been attacked by police and local residents.
But Morrison said no outsider had breached the perimeter fence or attacked anyone inside the camp.
The contractor that operates the camp, G4S, said in a statement its staff were able to restore order within the camp without the use of force. On Tuesday, they were checking that all the inmates were accounted for.