Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Detainees on hunger strike at Villawood

7 News reports "up to 100 people are refusing food in the longest mass hunger strike in Villawood Detention Centre's history, a Sydney refugee spokesman says.

The hunger strike began on Thursday, two days after a Chinese detainee at the western Sydney centre had tried to kill himself by swallowing four razor blades.

Refugee Action Coalition spokesman Ian Rintoul said the 35-year-old Falun Gong practitioner known as Mr Huang, had been "very depressed" before his suicide attempt.

Fearing he would turn to self-harm, Mr Rintoul said several attempts were made by the Chinese Welfare Association to get Mr Huang a bridging visa.

When none was successful he had lost hope, he said.

Mr Rintoul said scores of fellow detainees were so upset by the Immigration Department's treatment of Mr Huang that they were now accepting only water and juice."

People pushed to the edge will take extreme action, including self-harm, as a last resort. It is a tragedy that the refugee system has become so compromised by 'national interest' considerations as to be disfunctional, incapable of producing humane outcomes.

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