Deathscapes

Killing Reza Barati 11b - Orchestrating Tension

Deathscapes

Orchestrating Tension

Following the 2013 re-opening of the camp on Manus, mutual fear and suspicion of one  another between asylum seekers and local Manusians was deliberately spread by the Australian Immigration Department and its private contractors. Manusians were told that asylum seekers were dangerous criminals, while asylum seekers were given to understand that locals were savage and dangerous cannibals who could infect them with disease. These representations fostered tensions and ultimately violence between the two groups. The construction of these narratives by Australia can itself be seen as a violent act of neo-colonialism. In some cases, activists in Australia arguing for an end to offshore processing were complicit in uncritically reproducing these narratives.

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Concerns about safety and security for the men in the camp were well known long before the events that resulted in the killing of Reza Barati in February 2014. On the morning of 18 October 2013, a fight took place outside of the camp between a group of PNG police and PNG Defence Force personnel. This could be seen from Foxtrot compound where some of the men were held. Asylum seekers reported hearing gun shots and most staff were evacuated, with only a few G4S officers remaining in the compounds. Some people reported that external gates were not secured and that they were not given any information about what was happening. This raised concerns that in the event of an emergency, people detained in the camp could be abandoned by those supposedly employed to protect them. Shortly afterwards, in another ‘incident’, local police shot stray dogs outside of the Manus camp. The operation, known as ‘Killum Dog’ again caused fear and anxiety to many inmates when the sound of gunfire was heard, as well as distressing those inmates who had befriended these dogs. (Amnesty, 2013)


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