The Darwin Asylum Seeker Support and Advocacy Network (DASSAN) released the statement below on March 8.
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DASSAN has been informed by asylum seekers inside the Northern Immigration Detention Centre (NIDC) that a hunger strike commenced today in the centre.
A number of asylum seekers commenced the hunger strike this afternoon in the North 1 compound. They are protesting at the amount of time spent in detention and the levels of self harm they are witnessing inside NIDC.
Read more of Green Left's coverage of the treatment of asylum seekers and the struggle for their rights
DASSAN spokesperson Fernanda Dahlstrom said: “People inside NIDC are falling apart. Only two weeks ago one man tried to kill himself by swallowing a light bulb. On Sunday, a Burmese man attempted to hang himself and ended up in hospital and yesterday an extended rooftop hunger strike ended.
“We have been told that one man who has been in detention for over two years now has chronic psychological problems and spends his days talking to a tree.”
The practice of the Serco guards is to place hunger strikers and anyone engaged in forms of protest in the North 2 punishment compound. The men remain in North 1 at this stage and have indicated to DASSAN they intend to continue their hunger strike.
Dahlstrom added: “Punishing people for peaceful protests is not the answer to Australia’s detention centre self harm epidemic. Asylum seekers should be housed in the community whilst their claims are processed like most industrialised countries.
“This would be much cheaper and more humane then locking people up in these factories for mental illness.”
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