February 06, 2015 | ABC News
Human rights lawyer Julian Burnside QC will represent an asylum seeker on a hunger strike in a Darwin detention centre, describing the man as “desperate”.
The 33-year-old Iranian man, who is detained at Wickham Point detention centre, has been on a hunger strike since late last year after losing his appeal for refugee status.
Burnside, a well-known barrister and refugee advocate, said he would represent the man in an appeal against the decision in the Federal Circuit Court next Thursday.
“He’s a man who’s trying to die rather than being sent back to his country,” Mr Burnside said.
“Who wouldn’t want to help someone like that.
“You know that’s pretty desperate territory. I was available on the day, of course I’m going to help.”
The Iranian man began his hunger strike on November 8 last year. He stopped in late December but resumed four days later.
He was joined by 15 other Iranian hunger strikers in late January.
Government ‘morally responsible’ if hunger strikers die: Burnside
One of the men – who did not want to be named – told the ABC some of the hunger strikers had been taken to hospital.
The man said they were protesting against their indefinite detention after their applications for refugee status were rejected.
He said he would be killed if he returned to Iran because of his political and religious beliefs.
Mr Burnside said the Federal Government would be morally responsible if any of the asylum seekers died from their hunger strike.
“The only reason they’re on a hunger strike is because of their fear of what will happen to them if they return to Iran,” Mr Burnside said.
“And frankly, starving yourself to death in Australia is a fair mark of sincerity that you are genuinely scared of returning to Iran.
“It brings to mind an interesting comment that I’ve heard from a lot of asylum seekers over the last 15 years, which is ‘In my country … they kill you quickly, in Australia they kill you slowly’.”