Hunger strike until death, say asylum seekers
Prepared to die ... Nauru protestors continue their hunger strike. Photo: Clint Deidenang
ASYLUM seekers on a hunger strike on Nauru have vowed they are prepared to die unless the Pacific island detention centre is closed and their refugee claims are processed in Australia.
As the hunger strike entered its fourth day, detainees posted a comment on their Facebook page on Sunday vowing: ''We will continue our hunger strikes … to the death.''
An Immigration Department spokesman said ''less than a dozen'' detainees had been treated at the camp's medical centre for dehydration or heat exhaustion. None had been taken to either of Nauru's two hospitals.
Refugee advocates said 10 people had needed treatment by mid-afternoon Sunday.
Detainees met on Saturday afternoon with the Immigration Department's senior representative on Nauru, though little progress seems to have been made.
The department spokesman said officials were taking the protests seriously but had told the detainees that the department would not yield to the protests.
''It was reiterated to them that these sorts of activities would have no impact on the outcome of where they're placed,'' he said.
There were disputes about how many asylum seekers were actually refusing food and water.
The Refugee Action Collective's Ian Rintoul, who is in touch with detainees via phone and internet, said up to 300 people had joined the hunger strike, out of 377 people in detention on the island.
''There is simply no way the medical centre in Nauru - or, frankly, the hospital in Nauru - is going to be adequate to deal with the crisis that is unfolding,'' Mr Rintoul said.
The department spokesman said most detainees were eating. although this calculation was based on the fact that more than 300 meals were being taken at meal times, rather than on observation of people eating.
''They could easily be saying that they're protesting … but we don't know if they're eating or not. All we know is that food is available. They have access to it, and they have access to water and medical treatment.''
People were being monitored by the detention centre staff for symptoms of dehydration or other conditions, he said.
Asked whether people would be force-fed if their lives were imperiled, he said: ''We don't forcibly feed anyone. Food and water is available to people, and medical treatment is available at all times. We continue to engage with them and offer food and water, but I don't think there would be a matter of forcing people.''
The hunger strike comes as the government announced five more boats had arrived over the weekend. Since Friday night, an estimated 319 people arrived on five different boats, including 105 people who were intercepted on Sunday north-west of Cocos Islands.
More than 100 boats carrying about 6000 people have arrived in Australian waters since the government announced in August it was resuming offshore processing as part of a tough new policy to deter boat arrivals.