Sydney (AFP) - Violence at an Australian detention centre that left one dead and scores injured was a tragedy waiting to happen, refugee advocates said Wednesday amid demands for an independent investigation.
Unrest rocked the immigration camp on Papua New Guinea's Manus Island on Monday night as tensions flared among inmates about their fate under Canberra's hardline asylum-seeker policies.
An Iranian man died from a head injury and 77 other people were injured, some seriously, with Immigration Minister Scott Morrison putting 100 extra security staff on standby, although there were no further protests on Tuesday night.
Morrison said the head of the government's military-run Operation Sovereign Borders, Commander Angus Campbell, would be sent to Manus Island to assess security and report back.
The immigration minister has confirmed PNG police opened fire during the chaos, but said the exact circumstances remain unclear.
Reports said locals, unhappy about the camp and armed with machetes, were involved.
Morrison has denied this although Refugee Action Coalition spokesman Ian Rintoul accused him of being selective with his information, claiming that one of the injured airlifted to hospital had his throat slit.
He also referred to the death of the Iranian, a Falli Kurd, as "murder" by the PNG police.
- Calls for inquiry -
Both Australia and Papua New Guinea said they will carry out investigations, but Australian Human Rights Commission president Gillian Triggs said she fears they will not be objective enough.
"I think we've reached a stage now with the violence that it really does call for a more objective inquiry into what is happening at these detention centres and what the conditions are that lead to the levels of very high anxiety and in some cases violence," she told ABC radio.
Triggs said a retired judge or civil servant should handle the probe.
The Refugee Council of Australia said the riots, which started Sunday, were a failure of government policy and inevitable.
"For many years, the Australian government has understood the consequences of indefinite, long-term detention on the mental health of asylum-seekers," said council chief executive Paul Power.
"For asylum-seekers already traumatised by the persecution or torture they have suffered, and the dangerous journey to find safety and protection, long-term, indefinite detention in a harsh, remote facility creates a highly toxic environment."
Manus Island is one of two remote Pacific camps used by Canberra in its punitive offshore detention policy, with the other on Nauru.
Under the scheme, aimed at deterring people-smugglers, any asylum-seeker arriving by boat or intercepted at sea is transferred to Manus or Nauru for processing and permanent resettlement outside Australia.
Power said that until asylum-seekers were given clear pathways to finalise their refugee status, similar incidents would occur again.
The United Nations refugee agency, which has condemned the Manus and Nauru camps as "harsh", voiced similar concerns.
"UNHCR has consistently raised issues around the transfer arrangements and on the absence of adequate protection standards and safeguards for asylum-seekers and refugees in Papua New Guinea," it said.
"Significant shortcomings in the legal framework for receiving and processing asylum-seekers from Australia remain, including lack of national capacity and expertise in processing, and poor physical conditions.
"We also highlighted that detention practices are harmful to the physical and psycho-social well-being of transferees, particularly families and children."