Grave fears for hunger-striking asylum seeker

May 25, 2007

On May 23, Sydney's Refugee Action Coalition (RAC) issued a call for support for a Chinese asylum seeker at Villawood detention centre who has been on hunger strike for 57 days. There are reports that the man was transferred to hospital from Villawood's medical centre on May 22.

The man began the hunger strike with nine other Chinese asylum seekers at Villawood on March 28 in protest at the forced deportation of detainees. The hunger strikers called for a review of asylum cases at Villawood and for the government to give a guarantee of the safety of those already deported. The other nine hunger strikers have since ended their protest.

The man is a long-term Falun Gong practitioner and has been in Villawood for more than 18 months. No-one is clear on where the man is located in the centre. Global Solutions Ltd, which runs Villawood, has refused to let detainees or outside visitors see the man.

"We are calling on [immigration minister Kevin Andrews] to act urgently", said RAC's Ian Rintoul. "Hunger strikers may suffer permanent organ damage after only 40 days and as we approach 60 days a hunger strike becomes critical."

Rintoul added: "Today [May 23] the minister has announced that he will review the cases of a number of Chinese workers in Brisbane on 457 visas [temporary work permits]. The asylum cases in Villawood deserve at least as much consideration. The minister has wide discretionary powers to use in just such circumstances. Time is fast running out. The minister must act."

The next RAC meeting will be held on January 1 at 6pm, at the NSW Teachers Federation building, 300 Sussex St. For more information phone Ian on 0417 275 713.

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