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May 21, 2010

OMBUDSMAN INTERVENES – TAMIL ASYLUM SEEKERS END HUNGER STRIKE

by refugeeactioncoalitionsydney

Media release May 21, 2010

SERCO AND IMMIGRATION FACE HUMAN RIGHTS COMPLAINTS

Eight Tamil asylum seekers facing charges resulting from a fight inside Christmas Island detention centre last year have ended their hunger strike after getting assurances that the Commonwealth Ombudsman’s office will investigate concerns at the length of time and the conditions under which they have been held in detention.

Appeals to the hunger strikers also came from the Tamil community, concerned that their health would seriously affected, as condition of the hunger strikers who had been refusing water deteriorated rapidly during the day. By Thursday afternoon, some were reporting severe headaches and others vomiting.

The trial of four of the Tamils has been set for September -almost a year since the alleged offences have occurred. Another four look like having a trial date in December. The detainees will have been in detention for over a year by that time.

“Mandatory detention means asylum seekers have less rights than those in the criminal justice system, although they have committed no crime,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition

The asylum seekers have been told that their detention will be discussed in the Ombudsman’s office in Canberra in around three weeks.

The Tamils have made further complaints against the detention management corporation, Serco, regarding their treatment during the hunger strike. Serco management refused them blankets or warm clothes despite the temperature dropping to just 4 degrees C during the first night of the protest.

Serco also refused to allow anyone to visit the hunger strikers, and prevented them from using computers or recharging their mobile phones.

“Serco’s treatment of the asylum seeker is nothing short of shameful,” said Ian Rintoul, “Serco should respect their human rights and their right to protest.”

The Human Rights Commission is also scheduled to hold a June mediation hearing with the Immigration Department regarding a compliant of arbitrary detention made by the 11 asylum seekers charged after the fight.

The mistreatment by Serco during the hunger strike has also been referred to the Human Rights Commission.

“These asylum seekers should be released immediately. They are victims of long term detention. Two of them have been told that they have been found to be refugees. All of them should be granted visas on humanitarian grounds alone,” said Rintoul.

For more information contact Refugee Action Coalition, Ian Rintoul 0417 275 713

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