Monday, December 15, 2003

More asylum seekers join hunger strike

More asylum seekers in mandatory detention on the island of Nauru have joined a hunger strike to protest against the Federal Government refusing them refugee status.

There are concerns that some of the hunger strikers may suffer serious injury or death from dehydration.

The Immigration Department has confirmed that by last night 25 men were going without food and water inside the Nauru detention camp.

It started with nine men last Wednesday morning, of which two have now been taken to hospital.

Four of them sewed their lips together.

A department spokesman says the men are being closely monitored and that the International Organisation for Migration, which runs the camp, will deal with any situation that arises.

Refused refugee status in Australia, the men say they will not return to Afghanistan.

Refugee advocate Elaine Smith is talking daily to people inside the camp.

She says many of the hunger strikers would rather die than go back.

"I don't see any chance of them backing down which is really worrying because they can be pushed to the limit," he said.

But the Government says the men's actions will not change the fact that their protection visa applications failed.

By Encouraged Harm 15 December 03


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