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January 18, 2011

REJECTION AND DELAYS PROVOKE HUNGER STRIKE AT CURTIN DETENTION CENTRE

by refugeeactioncoalitionsydney

Media release January 18, 2011

Up to 1000 Afghan asylum seekers at the Curtin detention centre have begun a hunger strike today. A group of 300 have placards and banners and are protesting outside immigration offices inside the detention centre. The placards say, “Where are our human rights”, “Stop playing games with our lives, we want positive outcomes,” “Protection not detention.”

The protesters are calling for immigration officials to come from Canberra to explain why they are waiting so long. Two people have been on hunger strike for a week. One of them has already been treated for dehydration, while another detainee has been hospitalised after a serious self harm incident.

In response, Serco has cut internet access from the detention centre. Detainees are also being denied access to TV rooms.

The hunger strike is in response to the long delays and the high rates of rejection that the Afghan asylum seekers are suffering.

“People are very angry,” one Curtin detainee told the Refugee Action Coalition, “People are waiting many months. Some have not got a decision yet. Others get only rejections. Even people, maybe ten or more have been told they are successful but they are waiting two or three months already and they have no visa. No one is getting visa from Curtin,” the detainee said.

Curtin is one of the most remote detention centres and one of the most difficult to contact. It presently houses around 1100 Afghan asylum seekers, many of whom were subject to the visa freeze implemented by the Rudd government in April 2009 and only lifted in October 2009. Others were transferred from Darwin last year after the protest where they broke out of the detention centre.

“The Curtin detainees are aware of the MOU between Afghanistan and Australian announced yesterday,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson or the Refugee Action Coalition, “Like the visa freeze last year, this announcement is adding to the uncertainty of the Afghan asylum seekers.

“The delays in processing asylum seekers are adding to the untold misery inside the detention centres. The recently announced changes have removed one level of appeal for offshore asylum seekers. The determination process is seriously flawed and open to political manipulation. There has been no change in the security situation in Afghanistan. Rejection rates only rose after public statement from the Rudd Labor government indicated that it expected increased rejection rates.

“Instead of boasting about an agreement to return asylum seekers to Afghanistan, the Immigration Minister should act on his promise to introduce complementary protection legislation to ensure asylum seekers are not returned to danger. The government well knows that Afghanistan is not safe,” said Rintoul.

For more information contact Ian Rintoul 0417 275 713

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