Injured asylum seeker to sue federal government and G4S over Manus violence

An asylum seeker who lost his eye after being struck with a rock during a riot at the Manus Island detention centre is taking legal action against the federal government and security company G4S.

His lawyers will file proceedings against both in the Supreme Court in Melbourne on Wednesday.

They argue both the Commonwealth and G4S failed their duty of care to keep the man, referred to as RN, safe.

G4S, registered in Melbourne, was contracted to run the detention centre at the time of the violence in February. Transfield Services has since taken over the contract.

Maurice Blackburn principal Jane McDermott said her client, who is in his 30s, fled his country last year in fear of his life. She declined to say where RN is from, as he fears identification will endanger his family in his home country.

RN said in a statement that he went outside the detention centre to see what was happening when the riot began, where he was hit in the right eye with a rock.

When he returned to his room ''I heard gunshots and screaming. I hid under the bed in fear and heard people being dragged from their rooms'', he said.

''When the noise eased, I came out from under the bed to seek medical attention but I was dizzy and fainted on the floor.''

RN was flown to the Mater Hospital in Brisbane for surgery. His eye had to be removed and he was later taken to Villawood Detention Centre in Sydney, where he is receiving medical treatment and waiting to receive a prosthetic eye.

He said he had been mentally and physically unwell since: ''I feel dizzy constantly and the conditions here are very noisy and crowded. Psychologically I can't last in this place.''

Ms McDermott said RN also had a titanium plate and screws inserted into his face to fix broken bones.

RN is seeking compensation for the costs of his medical treatment, pain and suffering.

Ms McDermott said it was ''too early to tell'' how much they would ask for, as he was still being assessed to see if he had an acquired brain injury.

RN, an instrument-maker by trade, is allowed to remain in Australia on medical grounds for his surgery, which is expected to take place in the next fortnight.

Ms McDermott said her client, who had suicidal thoughts, also required ongoing psychological treatment, and that being in detention exacerbated his trauma.

''We wrote to the Department today stating, on the basis of their own psychological assessment, that he be placed in community detention, which is the appropriate environment for him to get better,'' she said.

She said there were ''great parallels'' between her client's case and that of Iranian asylum seeker Reza Berati, who lost his life in the riot.

''There are great parallels in the fact that the Commonwealth of Australia failed to ensure the safety of all the people held in detention that night.''

She said while others injured in the riot may also have claims against the government, RN was the only one who has given instructions so far, with many asylum seekers having little access to legal representation.

The parties will first appear in the Supreme Court on September 18 for a directions hearing, about a week before a Senate inquiry is due to deliver its report on the Manus Island riot.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison did not respond to Fairfax Media by deadline.

Ms McDermott argues that G4S failed to provide adequate fencing or security at the compound, ''there was inadequate training of staff to deal with an emergency, nor was an emergency plan executed that night to keep all the people housed in (the) compound safe from harm''.

She said: ''We are all aware there was no control where there should have been control exercised by the Commonwealth of Australia and G4S to protect my client.''

For help or information call Suicide Helpline Victoria on 1300 651 251 or Lifeline on 131 114, or visit

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This story Injured asylum seeker to sue federal government and G4S over Manus violence first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.