November 08, 2012
AN asylum seeker at Australia’s offshore processing centre on Nauru has accused the federal government of trying to cover up a mass hunger strike and says detainees are being used as political tools.
The man, who asked to be identified only by his first name Mahdi, has been refusing food for the past eight days.
He says more than 300 of the 377 detainees there are also on a hunger strike.
They’re demanding to be sent back to Australia and for the processing centre on Nauru to be closed.
“All of the inmates, be they Iranians, Afghans or Sri Lankans, are standing firm on this,” Mahdi told AAP on Thursday.
But the immigration department said on Wednesday that at least 200 meals had been claimed at eating times and a large amount of snacks had been given out to the transferees.
“(This) does indicate that the number of people claimed by advocates to be abstaining from food is incorrect,” an immigration department spokesman said on Wednesday.
Mahdi, who is putting together a petition for the detainees on hunger strike, denied this was the case.
“(The government) is trying to cover up this issue,” he said.
“This is not something that we’d lie about.”
He described conditions on the camp as “very poor” and without proper medical facilities.
“The tents are extremely hot,” Mahdi said.
“We can’t stay inside the tents during the day because of the heat.
“Our beds get wet when it rains and there’s cockroaches and rats everywhere.”
Mahdi was sent to Nauru in late September from Christmas Island.
“Many of the guys said they didn’t want to go to Nauru and demanded legal representation, but no one listened,” he said.
“In the end they were handcuffed and forced to board a plane to Nauru.”
Mahdi says the inmates have been told their refugee applications will start to be processed in six months by the Nauruan government.
“But we didn’t come to Nauru,” he said.
“The Australian government brought us here.
“We don’t even know what the laws are in Nauru.”
He worried about the mental health of detainees who were “going crazy”.
People arriving in Australia by boat without a visa since August 13 have run the risk of being transferred to processing centres in Nauru or Papua New Guinea under the government’s new offshore processing policies.