August 25, 2012
Asylum seekers are transferred to the island. Picture: Daniel Wilkins Source: Herald Sun
ASYLUM seekers at Christmas Island’s detention centre are refusing food in protest at plans to transfer them outside Australian territory for their claims to be processed.
A Department of Immigration spokesman told AAP some detainees had skipped meals but he was unable to confirm media reports of a large-scale hunger strike.
“There are people who have missed meals,” the spokesman said today.
He stressed any hunger strike action would not influence offshore processing plans.
“Anything these people can do will not change government policy,” he said.
“We continue to work with them and advise them on the situation, but this (the plan for transfers) is happening.”
Fairfax Media reports that 238 people from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and Sri Lanka, including 40 women and children, had been informed on Friday that they would be sent to Nauru for processing and deported to their home countries if they did not cooperate.
One Afghan asylum seeker told Fairfax he had begun refusing food on August 16, after arriving by sea from Indonesia two days earlier.
Federal parliament recently passed legislation to allow offshore processing of asylum seekers who arrive by boat.
An independent panel recommended the government urgently restart offshore processing on Nauru and Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island.
Greens immigration spokeswoman Sarah Hanson-Young said a large cohort of men were refusing meals.
“It is extremely concerning that Labor’s new Pacific Solution is already turning refugees to experience high anxiety and self-harm,” she told AAP.
“It is understandable why people are terrified by the prospect of being dumped indefinitely in detention on Nauru.”
She said sending asylum seekers to Nauru and Manus Island was “inhumane and will only hurt them even more”.
A spokesman for Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said the minister would not comment on Immigration Department operational matters.