An asylum seeker who was blinded in one eye during riots on Manus Island is suing the federal government and security contractor G4S.
An asylum seeker who lost an eye in an outbreak of violence on Manus Island is suing the federal government and security company G4S.
The man now has total and permanent vision loss in one eye and also suffered facial fractures so severe that surgeons used titanium plates to repair his skull.
His lawyer says the man was hit in a face by a rock moments before security personnel, and angry PNG locals, stormed into the detention facility on February 17.
“People – locals and others – broke into his compound and started attacking the people housed there,” Jane McDermott, a principal at Morris Blackburn Layers, told reporters in Melbourne on Tuesday.
“He was hiding under his bed in the room to escape all the activities and violence going on that night.”
The riots, which continued over three days, resulted in the death of Iranian asylum seeker Reza Barati and the injury of around 60 others.
The man, aged in his 30s, required a medical evacuation to Brisbane where surgeons tried unsuccessfully to save his ruptured right eye.
Papers to initiate a compensation bid were filed in a Victorian court on Tuesday, and they point to failures to provide adequate fencing and security as well as staff ill-equipped to deal with unrest.
“Sadly Reza Barati lost his life during this violence and 60 other people were injured during that night,” Mrs McDermott said.
“There is a parallel here because the Commonwealth of Australia failed to ensure the safety of all of the people housed in the compound.”
The name of the man taking legal action has not been released out of concern for recriminations against his family.
Now at Villawood detention centre in Sydney, the man has ongoing psychological problems and will be assessed for a possible acquired brain injury.
He feared being returned to Manus Island where he would “lose his other eye”.
Greens immigration spokeswoman Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said a Senate inquiry into Reza Barati’s death showed the detention facility “is not safe and never will be”.
“The Abbott government failed to ensure the safety of those on Manus Island and they must now face the music,” she said.
A directions hearing has been set down for September 18.
A spokesman for Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said the minister had taken note of the claims being made.