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Issue #1578      January 23, 2013

Hunger strike and self-harm on Manus Island

Up to five male asylum seekers on Manus Island self-harmed earlier this month as the unrest in the detention camp continued following the transfer of another 40 single male asylum seekers from Darwin to Manus Island.

Three asylum seekers were admitted to the medical centre – an Iraqi man who attempted to hang himself; a man with severe injuries from putting his hand into a fan and another man who collapsed as a result of his hunger strike.

The protests are causing a high level of distress and anxiety as many of the self-harm incidents have been witnessed by families and children in the camp.

A group of 5 Iranian, 15 Afghani and 25 Iraqi asylum seekers have now declared themselves to be on hunger strike in protest at their illegal transfer to Manus Island.

The asylum seekers are still waiting for an answer to a second letter to the immigration department on January 7.

“Manus Island should be closed,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition, “The idea that it is a fit place to send families and children is absurd. Not only is the Australian government refusing to process claims of asylum seekers asking for protection in Australia, it is deliberately mistreating them by sending them to Manus Island.

“The asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru want to know why there isn’t one law for all asylum seekers who have arrived after August 13. The vast majority of asylum seekers who arrived after August 13 will live in the Australian community while their claims are processed – conditions that are vastly different from those on Manus Island and Nauru.

“The Minister seems determined to discriminate against a small number of asylum seekers by sending them to hell-holes of Manus Island and Nauru. We are calling on the government to end the discrimination, to apply one rule to all asylum seekers who arrive in Australia and return those presently incarcerated on Manus Island and Nauru to Australia.”

On January 13 around 11.30am, an Iraqi asylum seeker attempted to hang himself on Manus Island.

The man, thought to be in his 30s, and who has children in Iraq, was part of the group of 40 asylum seekers transferred from Darwin to Manus Island. He is currently in the medical centre, and his condition is unknown. One asylum seeker told the Refugee Action Coalition that, “He looked dead,” when he was taken down.

The transfer has left the Manus Island detention centre distressed and in despair. Most of those transferred have refused to eat meals.

There was an impromptu protest gathering at the gates of the detention centre of people concerned about the welfare of the Iraqi man. The attempted suicide comes as tensions continue to mount over conditions and internet use in the detention centre.

Phone conversations are being monitored after photos of the conditions in the camp were sent to refugee advocates in Australia. Access to the internet for each asylum seeker has been cut from one hour a day to one hour three times a week.

On January 7, the asylum seekers issued another letter to the Department of Immigration expressing their concerns with the conditions.

The Refugee Action Coalition is calling on the government to halt the discriminatory transfers of asylum seekers to Manus Island and Nauru; to end the Pacific Solution 2.0 and to make immediate arrangements to bring all asylum seekers to mainland Australia.  

Next article – Labor shoves disadvantaged onto dole queues – again!

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