Date: November 08 2012
THE Red Cross has quietly visited the troubled camp on Nauru, as concerns about the hunger strikes on the island escalate.
A small team travelled to the tiny island where many of the 377 asylum seekers remain embroiled in a week-long hunger strike, to assess the need for Red Cross humanitarian observation.
The Red Cross acting chief executive, Michael Raper, said the agency would also investigate restoring family links services for asylum seekers who have been moved to Nauru.
''This is an initial observation visit only; no ongoing role has at this time been determined or negotiated by Australian Red Cross,'' Mr Raper said.
As reported by Fairfax Media on Tuesday, the government's hand-picked Human Rights Commissioner, Gillian Triggs, has said the indefinite detention of asylum seekers on Nauru was ''an egregious breach of international human rights law''.
The Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young said: ''It is essential that the conditions there be understood for what they are.''
As the hunger strike entered its seventh day, reports from the island suggested 50 people had begun to refuse water.
"They feel they have nothing to lose,'' the spokesman for the Refugee Action Coalition, Ian Rintoul, said.
''Over 6000 asylum seekers have arrived in Australia since August 13. Dumping 377 asylum seekers on Nauru has done nothing but put their mental and physical health at risk.''
In Bali the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, defended the government's asylum policies.
''Our intention is to fully implement the recommendations of the Angus Houston review … so if you get on a boat you don't get a resettlement option any more quickly than if you had stayed put,'' Ms Gillard said.
Pressed on the matter, Ms Gillard said: ''I'm sure opinions on this vary … we are determined to implement the recommendations of the Houston review.''
Meanwhile, the Salvation Army has hit back at reports its staff were being pulled out of Nauru.
The organisation's head of Nauru operations, Paul Moulds, said his group had been ''totally misrepresented'' by reports in the News Ltd press and re-reported elsewhere on Wednesday.
The reports claimed that communal areas had been closed and staff were being ''ordered out'' of the camp due to concerns for staff safety as a result of protests at the camp.
But Major Moulds said: ''Our resolve in this area to be with the asylum seekers in this environment is strengthened, if anything - not lessened - since we've been working here.''
On Wednesday night, authorities intercepted another boat carrying 35 people north of Cocos Islands. Border protection command will transfer the passengers to Cocos for initial health and security checks. They will then be transferred to Christmas Island for further checks.
The government has also returned another group of men to Sri Lanka as it hardens its stance against people it claims are economic migrants.
The group of 30, sent back on a charter flight to Colombo from Christmas Island today, is the second to be involuntarily removed in two days. The men will receive no reintegration assistance.
In its efforts to deter further boat arrivals, the government has returned 186 Sri Lankans either voluntarily or involuntarily since its offshore processing regime started on August 13.
with Lindsay Murdoch, Dan Harrison
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