Asylum seekers on Manus Island fear a dispute over a multi-million-dollar security services contract has left them without protection and vulnerable to attack.
- Paladin Solutions guards contracted by the Australian Government stopped from entering accommodation
- Kingfisher Security, a Manus-owned firm, claim they would be providing security from now on
- Asylum-seekers and refugees fear the contract dispute could leave them unprotected
A local security company this week stopped Paladin Solutions guards — contracted by the Australian Government — from entering new refugee accommodation, because it wants a slice of the lucrative contract.
Paladin Solutions is getting $72 million to provide "garrison services" on the island for just over four months.
The contract value was almost doubled — from $39 to $72 million — in December, one month before it was due to finish.
Iranian refugee and journalist Behrouz Boochani said men from a firm called Kingfisher Security claimed they would be providing security from now on.
"Kingfisher staff came in and sent Paladin officers out," he said.
"The Kingfisher company is a Manus company and is saying they should have the security contract."
Some Paladin guards have since been allowed in to the compounds, but the dispute is continuing and is the latest in a series of problems that have led to protests and the disruption of services to asylum-seekers on the island.
The Australian and PNG Governments promised that asylum seekers would be safe in the new accommodation facilities when the Manus Island detention centre was closed at the end of October.
But since the men were forcibly relocated to the new compounds, there have been a number of protests and even death threats made against them.
Mr Boochani said the asylum seekers and refugees feared the dispute could leave them unprotected.
"This continued problem made the refugees nervous because the protest happened suddenly and the refugees don't know what is going on," he said.
"We have already had bad experiences inside the detention and many times we were attacked by guards and police while we were inside Lombrum [the detention centre], so events like this make us worried."
Situation 'an absolute shambles', Greens senator says
Paladin Solutions referred the ABC's questions to the Australian Department of Home Affairs.
The department refused to answer specific questions about the dispute, saying management of the compounds was the responsibility of the PNG Government.
"Australia has made significant efforts to support the PNG Government deliver suitable services to refugees and failed asylum seekers in PNG," it said in a statement.
PNG's Immigration and Citizenship Service Authority also did not respond to questions.
But Greens senator Nick McKim, who is visiting Manus Island, said both governments cannot ignore the problem.
"The security situation for refugees on Manus Island and people seeking asylum here is an absolute shambles," he said.
"There are many who've had threats of physical violence or had physical violence perpetrated on them."
The security contract expires at the end of January and neither government has said what is going to happen next.
Senator McKim said the Australian Government needs to explain who will provide security and whether public money will be used to subcontract and pay off the local company to stop its aggressive tactics.
"The Government needs to come clean here regarding who is actually negotiating the new security contract," he said.
"The old contract [has] been an abject failure in that it has completely failed to deliver safety and security for people seeking safety and security on Manus Island and it's time for some clarity and some transparency here."