November 13, 2012
ALL but six asylum seekers have called off their 12-day hunger strike on Nauru, buoyed by news Amnesty International would send a delegation to the island next week.
Omid, the Iranian man on his 33rd day of hunger strike, continues his hunger strike, as do another five Iranian asylum seekers. A number of Hindu Tamils who have been on a hunger strike will also be observing a religious 6-day fast, advocates said.
Amnesty International’s refugee experts will visit Nauru from Monday, to assess the human rights situation on the ground, and will interview asylum seekers and meet with department of immigration and citizenship officials, the Nauruan government, the Salvation Army and health officials.
It follows the Red Cross visiting the camp last week.
Mohammed, an asylum seeker on Nauru, told Fairfax the men had broken their hunger strike at breakfast on Tuesday. He had taken a glass of soup, and felt better than he had in days.
‘‘We have taken the decision to just stop the hunger strike,’’ he said. ‘‘I think Amnesty International, when they come here, we hope that when they see the situation and the condition of us, I think they will put the pressure on the government of Australia to just change the policy and they will help us to take us back to Australia and to help us with processing.’’
Amnesty International refugee campaign co-ordinator Alex Pagliaro said Amnesty would spend as much time as possible hearing the men’s concerns, but could not pre-empt the discussions this week.
‘‘We’re happy that the hunger strike has ended, and the men are eating and no longer at risk.’’
Omid, the Iranian man on his 33rd day of a hunger strike, appeared gravely ill, Mohammed said.
‘‘He says, ‘I will not stop the hunger strike’,’’ Mohammed said.
‘‘If you see him, you will find him just a skeleton body, ‘cause he’s too weak. Last time a doctor told him that very soon you will hurt and [your] brain will stop working.’’
Refugee Action Coalition spokesman Ian Rintoul called on the government to urgently intervene, saying it was possible Omid’s body had already suffered permanent damage.
A department of immigration spokeswoman said ‘‘a large group has advised us that they have ceased their protest last night’’. She could not say how many people were in the group, but said some meals continued to not be claimed.
Meanwhile, 23 more asylum seekers were sent to Nauru on Monday, bringing the total to 400.
The new arrivals had joined the hunger strike, but abandoned it with the others today.
The Amnesty delegation will present a briefing paper on the trip on Friday.