Refugees held on Nauru say more than 300 men are taking part in the indefinite hunger strike, which has now entered its second week. They say they will continue until Australia’s department of immigration guarantees them passage to Australia and an immediate starts on their asylum claims.
Immigration minister Chris Bowen told refugees last month that their claims for protection would not be heard for more than six months.
The group of refugees from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran and Sri Lanka released the letter below to Senator Sarah Hanson-Young and other politicians on November 9. They said on November 8 that immigration officials were in the detention camp taking photos of detainees eating to try to quell Australian outcry over the mass hunger strike.
But one refugee told Green Left Weekly that they were gathering a petition signed by every refugee taking part in the strike to prove that the protest was continuing.
The letter below is reprinted with minor edits from the Asylum Seekers on Nauru Facebook page.
We asylum seekers of Australia escaped from violence in our country have been transferred to Nauru. Nauru is a small island having hot weather and humidity.
Nauru camp have been started with a basic facilities, it has the worst conditions ever been seen by any asylum seeker — sit all the day under the shadow of few tress and in the back of toilets walls.
The detention centre is surrounded by the forest and only these small fences can’t stop the deadly snakes and danger insects. Due to the worst conditions mice and other insects are walking here and there.
Tent is being used for kitchen. If mice run in our tents can’t it run in kitchen.
We have deficiency of sports facility, medical facility and good atmosphere for health. The hundreds of these issues cause chest pains, skin problems, blood vomiting, kidney problems etc. The medical staff can’t over through these diseases.
Despite of these issues, the major problem that we are suffering is the starting of our process that we need to be processed in Australia since the unknown time has been announced; people have been suffered from mental and physical health issues.
We have observed a couple of self-harm incidents during a short time in here.
When we asked from immigration minister for the process instead of answering this he said that [International Organisation for Migration] IOM is at your service to take you back to your country and adding the words regarding our cases having years of staying in Nauru it will be decided whom to take to Australia and whom to be returned back to their home country.
If from now you select IOM it will be better for you instead of wasting time here.
We observed that we 377 asylum seekers have been sacrificed for the political reason to show people not to utilise this way of coming to Australia.
We victims of Nauru have protested peacefully many times and this time we have started hunger strike. Today is our eighth day of hunger strike and we want the attention of the people of Australian and the rest of the world that in which conditions we are keeping the asylum seekers for long period of time.
Is this not against UN law of human rights for asylum seekers?
It is very clear that protracted periods of incarceration in detention settings without any clarity as to due process, as what is likely to happen, is seriously corrosive to psychosocial and physical health of people affected. Delay and detention is a recipe for serious difficulties.
One of the cornerstones of refugee protection is that people who claim asylum should have access to fair and efficient and expeditious assessment of their claims. There should be no further delays in the assessment of cases in Australia and Nauru, and we should be moving forward as quickly as possible.
One of the asylum seeker is on hunger strike for last 27 days, doctor told him that very soon he will lose his kidneys and his heart will stop working and if you lost your life it will meaning less for every one and also for the government of Australia.
We need help from the government and people of Australia, we are asylum seekers we are not criminals.
We're a victim of politics.