Nineteen people were injured in the escape attempt, which involved violence, officials said.
Under an agreement between Australia and Papua New Guinea, people seeking asylum in Australia are first held in the detention center on Manus Island and are then transferred for resettlement elsewhere in Papua New Guinea.
Some new refugees who found out about the arrangement Sunday weren't pleased with the news and erupted into fighting and a breakout attempt, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said.
About 35 asylum-seekers escaped through a broken fence but they were quickly recaptured, Morrison said.
During the fighting, several fences were knocked down, safety-glass panels were smashed, bunk beds were broken apart and the pieces were used as weapons, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported.
Eight asylum-seekers were arrested and 19 were injured, officials said.
Morrison said there wasn't a third-country option for the refugees, though Papua New Guinea Foreign Minister Rimbink Pato said resettlement elsewhere could be an possibility.