Refugees awaiting ASIO clearance launch hunger strike

The Refugee Action Collective (Victoria) released the statement below on January 16.

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Refugee activists are concerned about the welfare of two Iranian refugees currently on hunger strike in Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation in Broadmeadows.

The Refugee Action Collective (Victoria) is also concerned about the growing number of refugees who remain detained after receiving their refugee status, whilst awaiting security checks from ASIO that take far too long.

Daniella Olea, a secondary School Teacher and Refugee Action Collective (RAC) member said: “I witnessed on Thursday, the first Iranian man aged 33 on a 6 day hunger strike after his second rejection. He has been detained for 16 months.

"The second Iranian man 32, was given refugee status five months ago and is awaiting security clearance. Both men have not received proper medical assistance. Eyewitnesses say they saw one man lying on the ground. He had been there for two days.

"He said, 'They treat me like animal so I am an animal'. What I witnessed on Thursday was pure desperation. These so called security checks are taking too long. A lot of refugees have been granted refugee status and then are left to go mad in these concentration camps for months and months.

"This is mental torture. There are also three minors detained, one indefinitely. What happened to ‘No children in detention’ by July 2011? I just can’t believe a civilised, wealthy country like Australia can still be treating refugees, the very vulnerable of our society like animals. It’s a disgrace. We demand the government end mandatory (torture) detention immediately."

Before Christmas, it was reported in The Age that there has been a sudden increase in the percentage of Iranian asylum claims which are being rejected at the first stage. This follows on from sudden increases in rejections of Hazara and Tamils early last year.

Kevin Rudd was reported in The Australian as saying: “I raised with Marty Natalegawa the growing challenge of the Iranian caseload to Australia. That caseload has grown rapidly in recent months. Australia will be working actively with Indonesia in the period ahead on how that particular pipeline can be reduced or closed. This will not be easy; none of this sort of work is.”

RAC asks Rudd: Why he isn’t concerned about the human rights of Iranians who are forced to flee their countries? Closing the means to flee a country and seek asylum condemns refugees to the persecution that we should be protecting them from.

We call on the Australian government to let these refugees come here, seek asylum and to not be locked up and subject to further trauma.

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