“Words really can’t describe. I have never, uh … I have never seen human beings so destitute, so helpless, and so hopeless before. I took the position with every intent of making the place a safer environment but it proved quite rapidly to be an impossibility. In Australia, the facility couldn’t serve as a dog kennel. The owners would be jailed.”

Those are the words of Rod St George, a former security manager at Manus Island’s asylum seeker processing facilities, who last night blew the whistle on horrific cases of abuse and mismanagement at the camp.

You can argue these places must be uncomfortable; a deterrent to making a dangerous sea journey to seek asylum in Australia. But they must be habitable. They must meet basic standards. Detainees must be protected from the same horrors many are running from.

The Gillard government reopened Manus Island as a processing centre in November 2011. That’s 19 months ago. In tripping over itself to find a “solution” to stop the boats it sent people to facilities incapable of holding them safely, and more than a year and a half later they’re still not up to scratch. That’s as much a part of the “solution” as anything else — something Labor has failed abysmally to address.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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