17 Feb 2014

Asylum seekers on PNG's Manus Island break out of compounds

7:26 am on 17 February 2014

Refugee advocates say asylum seekers on Papua New Guinea's Manus Island have broken out from a detention centre.

The Refugee Action Coalition says the perimeter fence has been breached and a riot squad has been mobilised.

The Australian Department of Immigration has confirmed a "disturbance", but would not confirm any details, or how many of the island's 1300 asylum seekers had escaped.

A spokesman for the asylum seekers' group, Ian Rintoul, says protests had been building all Sunday but escalated after a meeting was held to answer asylum seeker's questions about resettlement.

He says fences were knocked down and the whole detention centre was locked down as the protests spread to all the compounds with reports of a fire being set and tents destroyed.

There have been daily protests on Manus Island involving hundreds of asylum seekers since the end of January as frustrations increased over delays in processing asylum seekers' claims and uncertainty about their future.