November 12, 2012
DOCTORS have told Omid – the Iranian man on the 31st day of his hunger strike on Nauru – his kidneys and brain will soon fail, fellow asylum seekers say.
An asylum seeker on Nauru told Fairfax Media on Sunday that detainees had urged the skeletal Omid to eat, but he responded that ”it’s better to die than to live on Nauru”.
A spokesman for the Department of Immigration and Citizenship said medical staff continued to monitor the man’s condition and would provide treatment ”if and when necessary”.
Omid was the first man on Nauru to begin a hunger strike. He has been joined by others, who on Sunday were into their 11th day of protest. Asylum seekers say Wilson Security guards and Salvation Army staff have been trying to persuade the men to eat.
While the asylum seekers say 300 men are on hunger strike, the department says at least 200 meals continue to be served daily.
The protesters are demanding to have their claims for asylum processed promptly and to be transferred to Australia for processing.
But the system is under great pressure.
At the close of business on Thursday, there were 2423 asylum seekers on Christmas Island, including 529 minors. According to the immigration department the ”contingency capacity” is 2008 people.
Until now, only men have been sent to Nauru, but the immigration spokesman confirmed that children and families would also be sent there – and to Manus Island when it opens – in coming months.
”There will be no broader blanket exemptions,” he said.
On Saturday, 36 more Sri Lankans were sent home, the fourth group of Sri Lankans forcibly removed from Australia last week.
Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said the asylum seekers had ”raised no issues that engaged Australia’s international obligations”.
Since August 13, 255 Sri Lankans have been sent home.
”People who pay smugglers are risking their lives and throwing their money away,” Mr Bowen said.
”There is no visa awaiting them on arrival, no speedy outcome, and no special treatment. The government is committed to breaking the people-smuggling trade and preventing people from taking these dangerous boats to Australia.”
He said Australia would not provide reintegration help to people sent home involuntarily.
But refugee lawyer David Manne, who led the successful High Court challenge to the so-called Malaysian solution, said the practice should be subject to review.
”We have the government keeping decision-making outside the reach of the law,” Mr Manne said.
”If these people had come here seeking asylum, their summary expulsion without due process to present their claims would be a flagrant violation of our international legal obligations and could endanger those people’s lives.
”It is crucial that an independent umpire with wide-ranging powers of investigation and reporting be urgently appointed to scrutinise what may be the emergence of a systematic denial of due legal process, which could endanger lives.”
Meanwhile, another boat – this time carrying 134 people – was intercepted north-east of Christmas Island on Sunday.
Customs said that HMAS Childers came to the aid of a suspected asylum seeker boat at the request of the the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.
The people on board will be taken to Christmas Island for initial security, health and identity checks.