Monday 25 July 2011

Asylum Seekers | Scherger detainees resort to desperate measures

Scherger Detention Centre | Weipa

Refugee advocates fear tragedy will strike at the Scherger immigration detention centre as frustrated detainees risk death in an increasingly desperate bid for answers.

Protests at the centre near Weipa over refugee visas escalated at the weekend, with one man cutting his throat and another slashing his arm.

More than 90 asylum seekers continued a hunger strike last night and refugee advocates have called on the Federal Government to intervene before the protest escalates, or has fatal consequences.

Asylum Seeker Resource Centre spokeswoman Pamela Curr fears the men, who have been without food since 10am Tuesday, are not thinking clearly and may die as a result."It’s really a tragedy in the making," she said.

"The men who aren’t on strike are currently barred from supporting their friends who are on the hunger strike, so there is a limit to the information we have got.

"I would think that it is to the detriment of the men to not have the support of their friends, particularly as they are now entering 60 or 70 hours without food or water, so their capacity to make clear-thinking decisions is limited."

Ms Curr said there was a "feeling of inherent unfairness" because only 10 per cent of Afghan Hazaras at the centre were being granted refugee status, compared with the Australia-wide average of 78 per cent.

She said the men would continue their hunger strike until someone from the Immigration Department explained the disparity to them.

"These are men that have sat quietly and patiently and waited for over 20 months, and now they have had enough," Ms Curr said.

Father Lawrie Bissett, who has visited the centre several times, said he was concerned the men would die for their cause.

"They are not being demanding; Australians of all people should be sympathetic because we are very demanding of our rights and there is something in our nature that says we want it, and we want it now," the Catholic priest said.

"Yet we expect these people to stay (in detention) for years without knowing (their fate)….
"All those people must feel like they have nothing to lose."

An Immigration Department spokesman said the men accepted water and electrolytes yesterday, and officials were available to speak to them. The men who committed self-harm have minor injuries.

Author | Source | Melanie Petrinec |Monday | July 25, 2011| © The Cairns Post

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