Marijuana Trading Business Shut Down Inside PNG Detainee Center

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Manus detainee threatened with acid attack after exposing drug business

By PNG correspondent Liam Cochrane

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, Aug. 5, 2015) – A detainee accused of tipping off guards claims he was told acid would be thrown in his face after a marijuana trading business was shut down on Manus Island.

A marijuana trading business has been shut down inside the Australian-funded refugee transit centre on Manus Island, prompting a threat of a revenge attack with acid.

A refugee living at the facility said for the last two months refugees living at the East Lorengau transit centre have been trading locally-grown marijuana, phone credit and clothes with other refugees visiting for classes.

There are 43 refugees at East Lorengau awaiting resettlement and moving freely around Manus Island's capital but other refugees refuse to take that step and remain in detention at the Lombrum navy base, where supplies are limited.

A week ago, the facility's operators stopped the Lombrum refugees visiting East Lorengau, effectively shutting down the trade of contraband.

Iranian Reza Mollagholipour said he expressed happiness the illegal activities had ended and one of the Iranian drug dealers accused him of tipping off guards.

"He directly told me, 'Reza, I'm very annoyed about that'," Mr Mollagholipiur quoted the man as saying.

"[He said] I will give some cigarette or some money to local people [and] when you get out from accommodation [they will] drop some acid on your face."

Mr Mollagholipour denied informing security about the drug trade but made a complaint about the acid threat to Transfield Services.

Transfield Services have a $1.2-billion contract to run Australia's detention centres on Manus Island and Nauru.

PNG's immigration department did not respond to the ABC's request for comment.

A spokeswoman for Australia's Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) said PNG is responsible for the management of the East Lorengau Refugee Transit Centre (ICSA).

"Any illegal activity or threats of assault are matters for the Royal PNG Constabulary (RPNGC)," the DIBP spokeswoman said.

There was, however, acknowledgment of the garrison role the private operator has on Manus Island, including initial investigations.

"Transfield provides support to PNG ICSA in maintaining the safety and security of the ELRTC [East Lorengau Refugee Transit Centre] and the refugees residing there," the spokeswoman said.

"In the case of allegations such as these being made, Transfield investigates and provides relevant information to ICSA for consideration.

"ICSA provides information and referrals to the RPNGC as appropriate."

Locals furious about lack of investigation

This chain of reporting appears not to have been followed in another incident in mid-July, where a young PNG woman was found naked in the Australian-funded staff accommodation next to the Lombrum detention centre.

Two weeks later, she filed a police complaint alleging attempted rape and sexual assault.

Three expatriate staff from Wilson's Security were sent home for breaching their company's code of conduct but local police and politicians are furious they left before authorities could investigate.

In a separate incident, an Afghan doctor was restrained and carried out of the transit centre last night by PNG police after a fight between refugees at the East Lorengau facility.

He was reportedly hospitalised before being transferred to police cells. It is not clear if any charges have been laid.

A refugee at the transit centre said some men were becoming distressed after spending months confined to Manus Island despite having refugee visas legally entitling them to travel to other parts of PNG.

The PNG Government has banned refugees leaving Manus Island until it has formulated a resettlement policy, which was due to be completed more than a year ago.

Two years after male asylum seekers began arriving on Manus Island as part of Australia's "stop the boats" campaign, no refugees have been permanently resettled in PNG.

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