The police in PNG say shots were fired by up to 15 naval personnel who were drunk and sent on a violent rampage.
Refugees say at least three asylum seekers and some Australian guards were injured when they were attacked by locals after playing soccer in the army in the navy base that surrounds the compound.
“This proves that Australia cannot ensure safety, not only for refugees, but for its citizens too,” said Kurdish journalist and detainee, Behrouz Boochani, reflecting the views of other refugees.
Pictures posted by asylum seekers showed bullet holes in rooms of detainees in two compounds, contradicting a statement released by the Australian immigration and border protection department.
A department spokesperson declined to comment on Saturday on reports that at least three asylum seekers were injured, along with some security guards who were trying to protect the detainees.
In a statement issued after the violence late on Good Friday, the department said there was a report on one injury and “reports that PNG military personnel discharged a weapon into the air during the incident”.
Church leaders and human rights groups have renewed calls for the detainees to be brought to Australia while asylum seekers are processed for possible resettlement in the United States.
The chair of the Australian Churches’ Refugee Taskforce, Dr Peter Catt said, even if the arrangement with the United States continued, the government must act to “create safety and security for those who have languished in offshore detention for too long”.
“By bringing people to Australia, the US deal may continue. More importantly, the healing of those who have been damaged by our nation’s policy can begin,” Dr Catt said.
The director of legal advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre, Daniel Webb, who has been to Manus three times to investigate conditions on the ground, said the violence was further proof that Malcolm Turnbull “must immediately evacuate the camp and bring the men to safety in Australia”.
“Enough is enough. The men on Manus must immediately be evacuated and brought to safety in Australia,” he said.
“Most of these men were found to be refugees years ago. Last night’s attack has again left them terrified and – after four years of fear, violence and limbo – they are completely exhausted.”
Amnesty International and Labor for Refugees also called for the asylum seekers to be brought to Australia.
Labor’s immigration spokesman Shane Neumann said the reports of violence were concerning and should be fully investigated.
Boochani said all of those injured were hit by stones thrown by locals. He did not know if any locals had been hurt.
“The problem started when some of the refugees were coming from a soccer game to the centre, and a man from the navy who the refugees claim was drunk started to argue with them,” he wrote.
“They started to fight each other and then a lot of young local people and refugees got involved in the fight. After a while the refugees ran away to the centre and the local people followed them throwing stones.”
As fighting escalated, and some Australians guards were beaten, Boochani says Papua New Guinea navy personnel shot about 100 times and some of their bullets hit compound buildings.
PNG’s chief migration officer Solomon Kantha has ordered a report on the violence.