Refugee hunger striker nears death

Issue 
Fifteen Iranian asylum seekers are on their 19th day of hunger strike in Darwin’s Wickham Point detention centre.

The Refugee Action Coalition released this statement on February 5.

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Fifteen Iranian asylum seekers are on their 19th day of hunger strike in Darwin’s Wickham Point detention centre.

Meanwhile, Martin, who has been on hunger strike since November last year, is very weak and close to death.

Martin and the 15 are part of a group of about 35 Iranian asylum seekers who are being held indefinitely in detention. The government is unable to remove them to Iran because the Iranian government refuses to accept forced removals from Australia.

The 15 hunger strikers were all living and working in the community on bridging visas until they were re-detained after August last year.

Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition said: “They are the victims of a callous and completely pointless policy.”

One of the hunger strikers was hospitalised and required stitches after cutting his wrists yesterday. He is now under 24 hour suicide watch inside the detention centre. In three other cases, the government has tried to break the protest by having the asylum seekers admitted to psychiatric wards.

“Our situation is very bad,” one of the hunger strikers told the Refugee Action Coalition. “All the time, we are told, you must go back or we will take you by force.”

As the protest of the 15 enters its 19th day, Martin is one day closer to death. On February 1, Martin collapsed inside Wickham Point and was taken to hospital at about 10.30pm. He was returned to the detention centre at 3am on February 2. He is now unable to walk.

“It is urgent that the Immigration Minister intervene,” said Rintoul. “It is a damning indictment of government policy that Martin is driven to hunger strike to the death. The government’s policy of re-detaining those they cannot remove brings a whole new level of brutality to the detention regime run by the Coalition.

“[Immigration minister] Peter Dutton has the power to review the cases of all those who have been re-detained. He has the power to reinstate their bridging visas and release them from detention. If Martin dies, the responsibility will rest with the Minister and the government’s policy.”

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