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June 2, 2011

BURMESE ROHINGYA REFUGEE’S HUNGER STRIKE ENTERS THIRD WEEK OVER ASIO SECURITY CLEARANCE

by refugeeactioncoalitionsydney

After 11 months waiting for his ASIO security clearance, with his wife and four children barely surviving on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, Villawood refugee Sayad Kasim, has reached breaking point.

“When I visited Sayad yesterday (Wednesday 1 June) to take him photos I’d taken of his family whilst in Malaysia, he told me that on 25 May his wife tried to commit suicide by lying on a road. Distraught, he tried to kill himself on the same day. Fortunately he was stopped,” said Mark Goudkamp of the Refugee Action Coalition.

“Sayad has been on hunger strike for two weeks (since 18 May), but has told me that he has been pretending to take bread, so he won’t be placed in Villawood’s high security Stage 1. He now wants people to know.

“Sayad and his wife have suffered far too much since they first fled persecution in Burma in 1995. In Malaysia, it took until 2002 for them to be recognised as UN refugees.

“While waiting interminably for a signatory to the UN Convention to resettle them, Sayad became a leader of the Rohingya Burmese Muslim community, setting up a school for refugee children, and organising cross religious sporting events with Hindus, Buddhists and Christians.

“However, the latter had earned him the ire of some Malaysian Islamists, and after being repeatedly threatened, he again fled in late 2009—this time by boat to Christmas Island. Australia accepted him as a refugee within six months of his arrival, but after 11 months waiting for a security clearance he and his family are in dire straights.

“On 20 May, I met Sayad’s wife and three of their four children during my brief trip to visit Malaysian human rights and refugee support groups opposed to Australia’s deal to send 800 boat arrivals back to Malaysia. It was heartbreaking to see her living conditions, and to see her break down when she told me she’d been forced to place her eldest child in an orphanage due to a lack of money and food.

“Sayad is one of hundreds of detainees awaiting ASIO clearances whose cases Immigration Minister Chris Bowen promised would be finalised by the end of April. It’s now June. How many more lives is our cruel system of mandatory detention, so roundly condemned by UN Human Rights Commissioner Nivy Pillay last week, going to be allowed to destroy before it is dismantled?”

For more information, call Mark Goudkamp on 0422078376 or Ian Rintoul 0417 275 713

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