Australian Senate inquiry finds govt responsible for deadly asylum-seeker riots

Australian Senate inquiry finds govt responsible for deadly asylum-seeker riots
Protesters hold placards at the 'Stand up for Refugees' rally held in central Sydney.

SYDNEY - The Australian government failed to protect asylum seekers in its custody during a deadly riot at an immigration detention centre earlier this year, and as such was guilty of human rights abuses, said a Senate inquiry report released on Thursday.

Australia uses offshore detention centres in Papua New Guinea and the tiny South Pacific island nation of Nauru to process would-be refugees trying to reach the country, often in unsafe boats after paying people smugglers in Indonesia.

One asylum seeker, Iranian citizen Reza Barati, was killed and more than 70 injured during riots in February at one such facility on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea.

A rapid influx of new asylum seekers, together with a lack of any clear pathway for the assessment of their asylum claim, resulted in the "eminently foreseeable" result of the riots, the Senate committee found.

"The inability of the centre's infrastructure to cope with this influx, combined with the complete absence of any clear refugee status determination and resettlement framework to deal with these asylum seekers, created an environment where unrest and transferee protests were the inevitable result," it said.

The long-delayed inquiry, prepared by parliament's Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee, recommended that Australia "acknowledge and take responsibility for violations of human rights" during the riots.

The committee also recommended changes be made to improve transparency and accountability at the facility to prevent future abuses, including allowing access for journalists, lawyers and United Nations representatives.

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