Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Manus Island: It was G4S

Last weekend, Australia's "Pacific solution" of loading refugees into boats heading north devolved into murder when in apparent retaliation for a riot, G4S security guards stood by and let locals, led by police, storm its Manus Island gulag. One person was killed and dozens were injured. The Australian government initially denied that a local mob had been involved, and blamed the refugees for the violence. But now witnesses are coming forward, and according to them, G4S invited the locals to storm the camp, and asked them to beat the refugees:

WITNESS: The police fired warning shots and that scared the clients and they went into their rooms., so that's when the G4S went in. And when the G4S get into the camp, they belt, they fight with the clients and belt them very badly and same are wounded, blood run over their face.

LIAM COCHRANE: Witnesses and guards say some G4S staff were injured by stones or by asylum seekers fighting back. There have been conflicting reports about whether local residents joined in the brawl. This witness is certain 10 to 15 locals armed with lengths of wood got involved.

WITNESS: But the locals went in.

LIAM COCHRANE: And are you sure that they were local residents and not G4S people out of uniform?

WITNESS: Yeah, of course. They're some locals. Because the locals came to see what's happening. They're on the road and see what's happening, so when the fence, the gates just - the G4S guards just break down the fence. They told everybody to go in and stop them and hit them and fight them, so that's when the locals get in.

LIAM COCHRANE: So the G4S guards asked the locals to come inside?

WITNESS: Yeah. Because the G4S guards want manpower to help them, so they took them inside, the locals helped them.

According to the witness, most of the culprits were local G4S guards; those hired from Australia apparently stayed out of it.

meanwhile, in related news: many of those detained in the Manus Island gulag are Sri Lankan Tamils fleeing the repressive aftermath of that country's civil war. But there's no escape, because G4S hired a former Sri Lankan army officer to run the camp. There's no suggestion that he is implicated in any war crimes himself, but as the Human Rights Law centre notes, it is inappropriate for anyone with links to the Sri Lankan military (who are reported to have massacred civilians in the final stages of the civil war) to be in charge of refugees, particularly those fleeing Sri Lanka. The good news is that he was employed by G4S, who have just been stripped of the Manus Island contract. The bad news is that reportedly he's staying on to run the gulag from Transfield, G4S's replacement. Which is what happens when you outsource: a billion dollars, and no accountability.