Robert Cornall’s report into February’s violence at the Manus Island immigration detention centre has finally been handed down. It makes clear that contractors working for the Australian government are responsible for the death of one asylum seeker, the serious injury of others, and the mass trauma of dozens.

Cornall’s horrific findings do not come as a surprise to us, nor to the numerous current and former staff members of the centre who have tried to speak out about the racist attitudes of expat staff, violence and rape between detainees, high number of inexperienced local staff, and an alarming lack of procedure at the Australian-run centre.

Months before the violence, former G4S OH&S manager Rod St George described the situation on Manus as a tinderbox ready to explode.

Weeks before it, former G4S safety and security officer Martin Appleby quit in disgust that he could not get management at the island to take seriously his concerns about the violent and volatile conditions.

“I couldn’t handle what was going on; no one wanted to listen,” he told Crikey yesterday. “I wrote many reports, and nothing was ever taken up. The lead-up to the [recent violence] started a long time ago.”

What is clear is that Reza Berati did not have to die: long before his death, whistleblowers gave us the information necessary to prevent his tragic fate.

What remains to be answered is why, on the morning after Berati’s death, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison laid the blame for the unrest at the feet of asylum seekers.

We challenge the minister to come clean on when he knew that his own contractors were in fact responsible for this shameful death in custody.

Peter Fray

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