One asylum seeker dead, dozens injured at Australian detention center

Feb. 18, 2014 at 1:53 AM
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MANUS ISLAND, Papua New Guinea, Feb. 18 (UPI) -- Violence at an Australian asylum-seekers' detention center on a Papua New Guinea island left at least one person dead and dozens injured, the government said.

It was a second night of unrest Monday at the detention center on the remote island of Manus, 700 miles northeast of mainland Papua New Guinea.

CNN quoted Australian government officials as saying the detainees breached the facility's fences.

About 35 asylum-seekers escaped through a broken fence but they were quickly recaptured, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported earlier. It said eight of them had been arrested.

The BBC reported 77 people were injured in the violence, 13 of them seriously. One of them was to be transferred to Australia for treatment, the report said.

"This was a very dangerous situation where people decided to protest in a very violent way and to take themselves outside the center and place themselves at great risk," CNN quoted Australian Immigration Minister Scott Morrison as saying.

The person killed reportedly succumbed to head injuries.

Morrison said order had returned at the detention center.

Australia's practice of processing asylum seekers on Manus and on the Pacific island of Nauru has raised a controversy, although Australian authorities say using such distant centers deters asylum seekers from undertaking dangerous sea trips directly to Australia, during which dozens have died in the past.

Controversy has, however, arisen because human rights groups have of complained about facilities at these centers. The groups say there have been hunger strikes and suicide attempts, CNN said.

Many of the asylum seekers are from South Asia and the Middle East.

Morrison said the vast majority of transferees at Manus did not take part in the latest protests.

"They were removed for their safety to the oval just down the road, and nonessential staff who were running the center were also evacuated prior to things escalating last night," he said.

"The news of a death is a great tragedy," Morrison said.

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