Senate Committee concludes that violence at Australia’s detention centre on Manus Island was 'eminently foreseeable'

The Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee today released its report into the violence inside Australia’s detention centre on Manus Island that led to the death of 23-year-old Iranian man Reza Barati and the serious injury of 70 others in February this year.

The HRLC’s Director of Legal Advocacy, Daniel Webb, who inspected the Manus facility earlier in the year and gave evidence to the Senate inquiry, welcomed the Committee’s key finding – that the indefinite detention of asylum seekers in harsh conditions made unrest “eminently foreseeable”.

“Successive Governments have left over 1000 men languishing indefinitely in conditions the United Nations Refugee Agency have repeatedly warned are inhumane. The men have no idea if, when or to where they’ll eventually be resettled and are constantly pressured to return home. Australia has created an environment in which unrest was and remains entirely foreseeable and the Government has both legal and moral responsibility for its consequences,” said Mr Webb.

Mr Webb said that the conditions which gave rise to the violence still have not been addressed.

“It's been over two years since Australia reopened the Manus centre and sent asylum seekers there. In that time, two men have died and over 70 others have been seriously injured but only a handful have been processed and none have been resettled,” said Mr Webb.

Mr Webb also welcomed the report’s recommendation that there be greater transparency over the Manus camp and that the Government take steps to ensure the United Nations, NGOs, lawyers and journalists are all able to gain access.

“If the Government had nothing to hide, it would welcome transparency. But instead, Manus remains the darkest corner of Australia’s immigration detention network,” said Mr Webb.

Mr Webb said that while the report made several practical recommendations to alleviate the suffering inside the camp, there was an inherent cruelty associated with the Australian Government’s asylum seeker and refugees policies.

“Australia’s deterrence-based offshore detention policies are cruel by design. Asylum seekers who arrive are mistreated in order to warn off others thinking of coming. No amount of tinkering around the edges of these policies will cure them of their inherent and intentional cruelty,” said Mr Webb.

Mr Webb said Reza Berati’s death and the report into the unrest which caused it raises broader questions about Australia’s policies.

“A man died in our care. Instead of finger-pointing and buck passing, our political leaders should look at ways to prevent deaths at sea that don’t involve violating the basic rights of survivors. Australia needs to urgently change the ways it tackles this global challenge. The sooner we start investing in developing safe alternative pathways to protection the better,” said Mr Webb.


For further comments, contact:
Daniel Webb, HRLC Director of Legal Advocacy, on 0437278961 or via