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September 30, 2010


by refugeeactioncoalitionsydney

Media release September 30, 2010


The dry (ie not taking fluids) hunger strike by 16 Iranian and Kurdish asylum seekers was called off late (Wednesday) afternoon following discussions with immigration officers. It was the twelfth day of the hunger strike that has taken a terrible toll on the health of the hunger strikers.

In a major concession to the protestors, the immigration officers told the hunger strikers that their cases would be reviewed and that they would have a definite answer to their claims within three months.

The men aged between 25 and 42 have been in detention between eight months and a year and all were transferred to Villawood from Christmas Island after receiving initial rejections to their asylum applications.

Reports from inside the detention centre indicate the men are very weak. The condition of five of the detainees had seriously deteriorated. One of the men, 27 years old, was hospitalised Monday 27 September for a second time in a week was reportedly too weak to talk when he was taken from the detention centre. Others who had been hospitalised were returned to Villawood after being re-hydrated.

“We remain extremely concerned for their welfare. A hunger strike like this can have long-term detrimental effects on people’s health. It is shocking that asylum seekers have to go to such desperate lengths before the immigration department will respond,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.

The tragic suicide by Fijian man Josefa Rauluni in Villawood last Monday and the desperate rooftop protests by refugees from Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Iran and China, has again pushed refugee issues the back into the headlines.

Meanwhile, on Christmas Island, the announcement last week of the rejection of Sri Lankan asylum claims also saw a number of self-harm incidents and an attempted suicide.

“The mental illness factories are taking a terrible toll on people’s lives. As long as the Gillard government maintains mandatory detention and off-shore processing, it is guilty of abusing asylum seekers’ human rights,” said Rintoul.

Protest: *Thursday 30 September, 12.30pm*

Henry Deane Plaza (between Railway Square and Central station), march to  Immigration Dept, 22 Lee Street. Speakers include: Mohsen Soltani (ex Villawood Iranian refugee), Fiona Byrne (Marrickville Mayor, NSW Greens), Baxter Wang (ex Baxter Chinese refugee)

For more information call Ian, 0417 275 713, Diane, 0413 003 148 or Jemima
0433 584 050.

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