From November 8-10 at least 135 detainees in Villawood Immigration Detention Centre refused to take any food or water. The hunger strike was suspended when the Immigration Department gave in to the strikers' demand for consultation.
Immigration minister Chris Evans earlier this year reaffirmed Labor's promise to releasing long-term detainees. He received praise in both local and international media for ending Howard's inhumane policies.
Nothing, however has been done to release all those who have been held for 90 days or more. Indeed, people continue to be forcefully returned to places of danger. A recent documentary, A Well-founded Fear, reported the death nine deported Afghan refugees.
Among the concerns raised by the detainees are:
Why is there a need to detain people when the Migration Act allows for detention within the community?
There is a lack of explanation following refusal to release asylum seekers into the community and lack of proper mechanisms to appeal decisions.
Risk assessments should be done by qualified professionals.
There is a lack of clarity about departmental policy.
The hunger strikers have said they would re-launch their protest after seven days should Immigration Officials fail to respond to their concerns.
"The need for substantial change in the immigration department is more apparent than ever. The Villawood hunger strike protest comes on top of the shameful decision by the Immigration department to deny permanent residency to a family with a Downs Syndrome Child", said Ian Rintoul from the Refugee Action Coalition.
[For more information contact Mark on 0422 078 376 or Luke on 0408 399 917.]