Martin Appleby, a former G4S guard at the Manus Island detention centre, speaks exclusively to Guardian Australia’s Oliver Laughland about his time there. He describes the lack of proper training for local staff, poor conditions, the inability of the guards to count the detainees and controversial visit of the immigration minister, Scott Morrison. In other segments published of the interview Appleby speaks about a sexual assault at the detention centre, the lack of segregation there for the more vulnerable detainees, and a skirmish with the PNG navy and police that led to the guards evacuating the detention centre and leaving the detainees on their own.
Appleby, who worked as a safety and security officer and a training officer on Manus between July and late December 2013, alleges:
- The immigration minister addressed a compound in late September, resulting in a state of “high alert” being called for riot, fire and self-harm. Appleby made these observations in a video diary that was recorded just days after Morrison’s address. The minister, according to Appleby, told asylum seekers: “You will never see the shores of Australia.” The decision to address asylum seekers in this manner, “put people’s security at risk, including his own”, and was a turning point in tensions within the camp, according to Appleby.
- Papua New Guinean nationals in the incident response teams (IRTs) were given “probably three days” of training. Appleby describes this as not at all adequate. Local IRTs are alleged to have been involved in the violence that erupted on the evening of 17 February, when Reza Barati was killed. A G4S incident report extract of that night seen independently by Guardian Australia observes a manager “lost control” of her IRT that evening. Appleby, who has a decade’s experience in corrections, says the training of the local IRTs should have been a “minimum six intensive weeks”.
- As the numbers in the centre began to swell after the introduction of the “PNG solution”, G4S “couldn’t afford any more time to give to training and it was a sort of a snowball effect”, Appleby says. “It was a failure that was always going to fail,” he adds.
- There was no proper procedure in place to count the number of asylum seekers in the centre. Appleby says he has “no doubt” detainees absconded from the camp.
- Facilities in the detention centre were atrocious: “No one should be made to live under those conditions. No one.”
“Within a week of arriving on Manus Island I formed the opinion, and I made comments to my wife and people that I know, that there is only one possible outcome here and that is bloodshed,” he said.
Related Link: Australia’s Guantanamo Isn’t Offshore: It’s In Melbourne