Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Human Rights in Australia & China - Villawood update

The following media release from the Refugee Action Coalition updates the appalling situation of the hunger strikers at Villawood. It appears mainstream media outlets are not covering this story. Now why would this be the case?

"Refuge supporters have grave concerns for the welfare of a Chinese asylum seeker who has been on hunger strike for 57 days. The man was transferred to hospital from the medical centre at Villawood detention centre on Tuesday (22 May).

The man began the hunger strike with nine other Villawood Chinese asylum seekers on 28 March in protest at the forced deportation of asylum seekers and to demand a review of asylum cases at Villawood and that the government gives a guarantee of the safety of those it had already deported. The other nine hunger strikers have since ended their protest.

The man is a long term Falun Gong practioner and has been in Villawood more than 18 months.

“We are calling on the Minister to act urgently,” said Ian Rintoul of the Refugee Action Coalition, in Sydney. “Hunger strikers may suffer permanent organ damage after only 40 days and as we approach 60 days a hunger strike becomes critical.”

“Today the Minister has announced that he will review the cases of a number of Chinese workers in Brisbane on 457 visas. The asylum cases in Villawood deserve at least as much consideration. The Minister has wide discretionary powers to use in just such circumstances. Time is fast running out. The Minister must act,” said Ian Rintoul.

The department has power under the Migration Act to order coercive medical procedures, such as force feeding, but there are clear international recognized ethical guidelines for medical practioners dealing with political hunger strikers. The World Medical Association’s Declaration of Tokyo states unequivocally, “Where a prisoner refuses nourishment and is considered by the doctor as capable of forming an unimpaired and rational judgement concerning the consequences of such a voluntary refusal of nourishment, he or she shall not be fed artificially.”

“The government has already abused this man’s human rights. It has to stop. The government has a responsibility under the Refugee Convention not to return asylum seekers anywhere they might face danger. Yet at least two of the Chinese asylum seekers deported since the hunger strike began have had problems with the Chinese authorities when they have been returned. One is unable to return home because of police surveillance of his parent’s house.

It is feared that another two with whom there has been no contact have been detained on their return.”

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