Papua New Guinea police are investigating an armed robbery at the Granville Motel in Port Moresby, which saw a group of asylum seekers swept up in violent confrontation while awaiting medical treatment.
Six Mile Police Station Commander Frank Barre told New Matilda the hold-up occurred around 11pm on Sunday July 10. He said eight people are thought to have been involved in the heist, but no suspects have been identified so far.
Although four of the thieves were armed with handguns, no shots were fired. It is understood that nobody was seriously injured in the incident, although asylum seekers still detained at the scene are understood to be badly shaken and feeling unsafe.
Commander Barre said that after being told to “lay low” by the gunmen, security at the Motel allowed the thieves to make off with 4,000 Kina from the Motel reception. Wilson Security staff contracted by the Australian Government to guard asylum seekers also appear to have been caught up in the incident.
“It was a clean job, no one was assaulted in the process,” Commander Barre said.
The heist appears to have been well-planned, with police confirming four of the thieves are thought to have infiltrated the Motel before a further four men armed with handguns arrived on the scene.
“We believe there must have been some criminals on the premises prior to these armed guys actually actually entering the area, so they knew exactly what they were going to do and they just executed what they planned,” Commander Barre said.
He said four of the men involved in the robbery had been drinking at the Granville Motel, posing as guests.
“They were playing with their mobile phone, maybe they were communicating with these four armed people; and then they must [have] given them clearance that everything was clear so they asked them to come,” he said.
“Of the four armed people that came later, two stood at the security gate and held the security, and then the [other] two actually went to the reception and ordered [staff] to open the vault, which [they] did. After that all of them decamped, including the four who were there [posing] as guests.
A Kurdish journalist detained on Manus Island, Behrouz Boochani has been investigating the incident too. He said that 17 refugees and asylum seekers have been held at the Granville Motel for around two months, where they are awaiting medical treatment.
The Department of Immigration and Border Protection has not responded to New Matilda’s request for comment. However, in a statement to the ABC the Department confirmed that at least two asylum seekers were “present at the time” and that “one resident was assaulted by an offender”.
Commander Barre said local police had not received any reports of an assault.
Police are now appealing to any members of the public with information about the armed robbery to come forward, as they struggle to ascertain the identity of the thieves.
Commander Barre said the robbers wore gloves, and that no video footage was available. “We tried to get information from the security camera on the Motel premises, but apparently that camera has not been working,” he said.
Behrouz Boochani said that asylum seekers held at the Granville Motel have submitted official requests with the Australian Government to be returned to the compound on Manus Island out of ongoing fear for their safety.
New Matilda understands Australian immigration officials will visit the Granville Motel today.
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