Refugees end hunger strike

A photo of the hunger strike and banners.

A 10-day hunger strike and protest carried out by a group of refugees in a Melbourne detention centre ended on April 17.

Twenty-seven refugees in the Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation centre in Broadmeadows were refusing food and water, and sleeping on the ground outdoors to draw attention to their lives in limbo.

Despite being found to be genuine refugees by Australia, they have been denied a protection visa due to adverse ASIO security checks. This means they will never be allowed to live in Australia, but cannot be deported because they have a genuine fear of persecution.

ASIO’s security assessments are largely carried out in secret and despite a court ruling last year that refugees should have a right to appeal the reasons for decisions against them, it has so far been impossible to do.
Four refugees were taken to hospital during the protest. The men risked permanent organ damage to maintain the strike.

They said they were determined to continue despite weakness and distress, but decided to end their fast when they were promised a meeting with a government official.

The refugees reportedly met with refugee lawyer David Manne and felt they had made an impact with the coverage and attention to their plight.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard said she backed the findings of ASIO and the decision to keep refugees locked up indefinitely.

One refugee told the ABC: “What is our crime? Nobody will tell us, but still they lock us up for life. Australia is meant to be a democratic country, but where is the democracy for us?”