Nauru asylum seekers renew hunger strike

Issue 

This statement was released by the Sydney Refugee Action Coalition on November 24.

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Nauru asylum seekers have renewed their hunger strike protest after rejecting the Nauru Foreign Minister’s proposal to begin initial interviews for the asylum seekers. More than 40 people in the last two days have joined the hunger strike from all the nationalities represented on Nauru — Iranian, Iraqi, Pakistani, Afghan and Sri Lankan. 

The new group of hunger strikers join the five Iranians on hunger strike for 24 days and Omid, the 35 year old Iranian textile engineer, who is in his 44th day on hunger strike. Omid, who yesterday also refused water, has been taken back to the Nauru hospital. According to the asylum seekers’ Facebook page, he has also now cut himself on his arms.

The developments come after Wasam, the Iraqi hunger striker, whose kidneys failed on the eighth day of hunger strike was flown to hospital in Australia on Friday.

The meeting with the Nauruan Foreign Minister (accompanied by an Australian Immigration representative) began on November 23, but was interrupted by torrential rain, which has again flooded the camp.

It was reconvened on November 24, but asylum seekers walked out of the meeting after hearing the Minister’s proposal. The Foreign Minister had attempted to bribe the asylum seekers saying that interviews would begin today and that the Nauru asylum seekers would be “one step ahead of those in Australia.”

But the asylum seekers responded, “We want to be treated fairly. We do not want to be ahead. First process the people in Australia who arrived before us. Then we will be processed. We want a fair system. We do not want Nauru,” the Minister was told. “Where are your lawyers? We didn’t even have a lawyer for those who went court this week.”

One asylum seeker calling from Nauru told the Refugee Action Coalition, “We walked out of the meeting. We have rejected the interviews. There are now thirty people on hunger strike. Some started yesterday, more started this morning. Many of us are also not drinking water.”

“Australia says it wants to save lives in the sea, but it will not save the lives on Nauru. It is better to finish this quickly. The camp is flooded, tents are leaking. 

“This is Nauru hell. It is better to die,” RAC was told.

The proposal to begin interviews follows the script outlined by Immigration Minister Chris Bowen last Wednesday, when he announced that Nauru asylum seekers will have initial interviews ‘next week, but actual interviews for protection claims would not take place until early next year.

“It is the Australian government and the Immigration Minister that is responsible for those it has condemned to Nauru and Manus Island. Omid is one day closer to dying, but all the Minister proposes are phony interviews and an indefinite sentence on Nauru,” said Nick Riemer from the Refugee Action Coalition. 

“The asylum seekers have called for Nauru to be closed. Amnesty International has called for Nauru to be closed.”