Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Human Rights in Australia - Sri Lankan refugees in Nauru on a hunger strike

" The Sri Lankans detained on the Pacific island of Nauru went on a hunger strike yesterday in protest of the six-month stalemate on their claims for asylum in Australia.

“We have undertaken the hunger strike as we are deeply hurt and disappointed by the fact that the Australian Government has been delaying the decision about our plea for political asylum,” an asylum seeker, A. Sujee told the Daily Mirror on an email interview.

“We are just living corpses,” he added.

“Although we faced certain visa application interviews, we don’t have a clue about our visa status. No one has given us information as to whether they are being processed and what is causing this delay,” he added.

50 of the 83 refugees are participating in the hunger strike. “Eating three meals a day does not mean living? It is for this reason we have decided to avoid the three meals and face whatever is in store in respect of our future,” stated a letter sent by the asylum seekers to the Australian Foreign Affairs Minister,"

The Age reports "Refugee advocate Susan Metcalfe, who has spent the last month on Nauru, said she had urged the men to reconsider the hunger strike.

"Some of the men involved have health problems, and at least one to two are diabetic," she said.

"They could do irreparable damage to their bodies and we could see disastrous consequences."

Ms Metcalfe said the men's anxiety and frustration had been exacerbated by the uncertainty of the election outcome and whether processing would be suspended during the caretaker period.

The men have been banned from leaving the immigration processing centre during the day following the alleged rape and indecent assault of a local Nauruan woman by six of the Sri Lankan asylum-seekers."

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