July 01, 2013
Asylum seeker supporters are worried about the health of a teenager entering his fifth day of a hunger strike at a Tasmanian detention centre.
The Immigration Department has confirmed a detainee is on a hunger strike at the centre near Hobart.
ABC News was contacted by the 16-year-old from Afghanistan yesterday who said he had been refusing food for four days.
Through an interpreter, he said he arrived at Christmas Island on a boat seven months ago and has since spent five months in detention at Pontville.
The teenager believes other asylum seekers from the boat have been released and he does not know why he is still in detention.
He told the ABC his condition was very bad and he wanted to draw attention to his case.
A spokeswoman for the Immigration Department has confirmed a detainee at Pontville is voluntarily starving themselves.
She says staff are monitoring the situation and the person has access to food and water at all times.
Emily Conolon from the Tasmanian Asylum Seeker Support group says it is concerning.
“In order to avoid further harm, it’s important the Australian Government commit to releasing all children from detention or at the bare minimum create a time limit of at least three months which was the Government’s own recommendation from the parliamentary inquiry that they conducted last year,” she said.
“It’s indicative of the great deal of mental stress that a person’s going through.
“Usually a hunger striker is at the point where they feel that they’re not being listened to and they have no other alternative for drawing attention to their case and trying to get a resolution.”
The National Children’s Commissioner, Megan Mitchell, visited Pontville late last month and called for the teenage detainees to be moves into the community.
Ms Mitchell was concerned some young detainees were depressed and losing hope.
The local mayor is not surprised by the hunger strike.
Brighton mayor Tony Foster agrees mental health issues at the centre are a concern.
“Talk to them about how frustrating it is that they’re not being able to contact their families that they haven’t seen for years and not knowing how they’re being looked after,” he said.
“It is of concern that someone is still being incarcerated after five months and the Federal Government are probably not upholding the policy of a maximum of 90 days.”