The daily protest at Australia's immigration detention centre on Papua New Guinea's Manus Island turned angry yesterday as refugees reacted to comments made by the Australian immigration minister.
Peter Dutton accused the detainees of being economic refugees, fleeing poverty rather than persecution, while still being able to pay up to $AU20,000 to people smugglers.
Mr Dutton said there was anecdotal evidence that detainees had amassed "the world's biggest collection of Armani jeans and handbags on Nauru," and he said their detention was being funded by "the generosity of the Australian taxpayer."
At a cost of about five billion dollars since 2012, the offshore detention of about 2000 asylum seekers had been unfairly portrayed as "a terrible existence," according to Mr Dutton, who said detainees received three square meals a day, accommodation and services.
"There is a very different scenario up on Nauru and Manus than people want you to believe," he told radio station 2GB as reported by the Australian.
Mr Dutton predicted refugees resettled in the United States would soon admit that four years of detention in Australia's equatorial prison camps "wasn't that bad."
In reaction, Manus detainees waved placards calling the minister a liar and arguing that clothing did not determine refugee status.
The vast majority of Australia's offshore detainees have been found to be genuine refugees while a minority have refused to submit to PNG's refugee determination process.
Amnesty International said Mr Duttons comments were either ignorant or malicious and that the first batch of 52 detainees being resettled in the US fled from warzones or conflict.