Australian Protesters Demand Shut Down of Manus Island Facility for Asylum Seekers

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By Reissa Su | February 26, 2014 8:18 PM EST

Protesters in Australia have called on the government to close the asylum seeker detention centre in Manus Island, Papua New Guinea, after it was revealed in a report that a former Sri Lankan military officer is running the facility.

(REUTERS/Sri Lankan President'
Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott (L), who is currently in Sri Lanka to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) 2013, gives Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapaksa a signed Australian Rugby Union jersey in Colombo, November 17, 2013. (REUTERS/Sri Lankan President's Office/Handout via Reuters)

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The Australian government has confirmed recently that Dinesh Perera from Sri Lanka served as the operations manager for the asylum seeker facility which was set up on Manus Island in 2013.

The detention centre is located in a rugged jungle-covered island off the northern coast of Papua New Guinea. Asylum seekers who attempt to enter Australia by boat are sent to the Manus Island facility.

According to reports, Mr Perera has been working for a private global security company G4S which the Australian government has contracted to manage the asylum seeker facility. Violent riots have recently claimed the life of one asylum seeker from Iran.

The asylum seekers mostly come from Asian countries, including Iraq, Iran, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan. The detainees have been rescued from unstable boats after paying people traffickers money to cross the Tasman.

Human Rights Law Centre advocate Emily Howie said the Manus Island facility has been  described as "cruel" and "inhumane" by the United Nations' High Commissioner for Refugees. Ms Howie is an expert on issues regarding international refugees. She has studied the human rights abuses in Sri Lanka and remarked that even if Mr Perrera had passed government scrutiny, there is no guarantee and "no peace of mind."

Independent NGO and not-for-profit organisation HRC is concerned that a member of the former Sri Lankan army is operating the detention facility where there are many ethnic Tamils.

According to reports, as many as 100,000 people allegedly died in a war which ended in 2009. The Tamil Tigers had fought against the Sri Lankan military to create an independent Tamil state.

Activists in Australia said about 30 to 1,300 refugees in Manus Island came from Sri Lanka. Ms Howie said they don't want former members of the Sri Lankan army managing the facility.

A spokesperson for the Australian Minister for Immigration Scott Morrison said government contracts with G4S and other services for offshore processing centres included clauses that require Australian Federal Police clearance.

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(Photo: (REUTERS/Sri Lankan President' / )
Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott (L), who is currently in Sri Lanka to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) 2013, gives Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapaksa a signed Australian Rugby Union jersey in Colombo, November 17, 2013. (REUTERS/Sri Lankan President's Office/Handout via Reuters)
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