By Anita : The Department of Immigration and Border Protection has received ongoing questions in relation to the disturbance on Manus Island of 18 October 2013.
The chronology of events was as follows.
At about 9am local time an altercation started outside, but near, the OPC on Manus between the Royal PNG Constabulary (RPNGC) and the PNG Defence Force (PNGDF). While the department is not in the position to advise on the specifics that triggered the incident (as it did not relate to any Australian citizen or resident), it can confirm that the department is not in possession of any information or evidence that indicates the incident involved a dispute over the actions of a G4S officer or that any staff member employed at the OPC was involved in the catalyst incident of the night before.
Precautionary measures were put in place, including the presence of incident response team members. In addition, the G4S operations manager attended the incident outside the centre to assess the situation. The department understands that at this time some of the participants to the incident were seen to be carrying sticks and may have thrown some stones. The department is unaware of any indications of bottles being present or thrown.
The G4S operations manager ordered the relocation of all non-essential staff from the compound nearest the incident to an alternative place in the centre, and requested that the DIBP centre coordinator attend the incident outside the centre. At this time, DIBP contacted HMAS Choules to advise of the situation and ask to prepare shuttle boats in preparation for a potential evacuation of non-essential staff should have events escalated.
The department understands that the PNG Immigration and Citizenship Services Authority (PNG ICSA) operations manager and G4S were in attendance at the incident between the time that the G4S operations manager initially arrived and the DIBP centre coordinator attended the scene. It is also understood that it was during this time a G4S guard reported seeing the presence of firearms. However, the department has no information or evidence indicating that firearms were used or discharged during the incident. In addition, G4S has confirmed that “no firearms were used to defuse the situation”.
The DIBP centre coordinator attended the scene about five to 10 minutes after it commenced, by which stage the PNGDF officers had departed, and entered into peaceful discussions with the RPNGC officers. Upon returning to the centre, the PNG ICSA operations manager, in consultation with the DIBP centre coordinator, advised G4S that the situation was under control and, as a consequence, the centre was returned to normal duties.
The period of time that lapsed between the first reports of the altercation to when the DIBP centre coordinator returned to the centre was no more than 30 minutes (the incident itself lasting less than 20 minutes). However, while the DIBP centre coordinator was outside of the centre with the RPNGC, some confusion in the centre led to a number of service provider staff moving to a pre-staging point in the incorrect belief that an authorised evacuation had been called. It was a matter of minutes before these individuals were returned to active duty and at all times G4S maintained a full active presence in the centre. All transferees remained under the physical control of G4S security staff throughout the incident.
The department firmly asserts that at no time was an authorised evacuation called. The only agency that has the authority to call for an evacuation of service providers and transferees at the OPC at Manus is PNG ICSA. The PNG ICSA operations manager did not call for an evacuation at any time and, similarly, the DIBP centre coordinator did not order any DIBP personnel to evacuate the centre at any time.