November 02, 2012
Despair on Nauru is escalating, with asylum seekers claiming 276 men are now taking part in a mass hunger strike, up from 170 on Thursday.
The Department of Immigration said a group of asylum seekers was continuing its peaceful protest, but it was impossible to confirm how many were involved because the number of people involved kept fluctuating.
Reports from Nauru said an Iranian man has been on a hunger strike for 22 days, while an Afghan man was hospitalised this afternoon after taking part in a hunger strike.
An asylum seeker on Nauru, who asked not to be named, told Fairfax in a phone interview that the environment was ”like a mental hospital”, and the uncertainty was damaging detainees’ mental health.
”You can suppose it is like a mental hospital, because this is, they were okay, these guys were okay, but this environment are making them mental, making them crazy. So because of these things we just cannot see this situation so they’ve decided to start a hunger strike.”
The man said asylum seekers continued to ask officials when their claims for refugee status would be processed, but officials were unable to give them timelines.
”This camp, I think, this is not suitable for anyone. We are humans. I don’t think that an animal can survive this.”
A group of asylum seekers has set up a Facebook page to reach out to the Australian public.
They wrote: ”As a human being in this critical condition, we are not being given the fair treatment, which affect us physically and mentally. This bitter reality torture us 24 hours means all days. In our home land we were in a danger of being tortured physically, but here we are facing mental tortured which are effecting us mentally.”
On the page, it was claimed that three people had fallen unconscious from hunger.
Meanwhile, Immigration Minister Chris Bowen announced that 26 Sri Lankans who had arrived in Australia over the past week were sent home on Thursday night, after failing to make any claims for Australian protection.
”Clearly, we’re seeing people smugglers selling a product, telling people that even if they’re not refugees, even if they want to move for economic purposes, that they can get a visa in Australia,” Mr Bowen said.
”Now we have seen, since August 13 – the announcement of our suite of measures – either a reduction or a stabilisation in the number of asylum seekers from most countries – from Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran – but we’ve continued to see an increase from Sri Lanka.
”So we’ll continue to take the steps necessary to ensure that people in Sri Lanka are very, very clear – very, very clear – that people cannot come to Australia with non-genuine claims of asylum and they will be returned swiftly after their arrival.”