Hunger strike at Curtin detention centre

Hundreds of asylum seekers largely from Afghanistan are currently on a hunger strike at Curtin Detention Centre. Many fearing deportation back to war torn Afghanistan after the Australian Government this week struck a deal with the corrupt Karzai government on returning "failed" asylum seekers. One asylum seeker also attempted suicide. Despite attempts by Serco and the Immigration Department to play down the protest, messages form the asylum seekers have started to reach the outside world.
Related: Perth Indymedia -- Project press release -- R.I.S.E. Press Release> -- Perth Now coverage -- Sydney Morning Herald coverage

Below is a message reported on Perth Indymedia received by refugee rights advocates from a refugee inside Curtin.

"Lots of people are joining the sit down hunger strike on the ground area. Now more than 350 people are sitting in the sun. Yesterday was so hot and last night it rained for an hour and a half but the people
didn’t move. Early this morning one person hanged himself but his friend found him and rescued him. He was critical and taken first to the medical centre. An ambulance was called and he was taken to the
hospital - Derby, Broome – I don’t know. Immigration is saying no hunger strike. If the people are not on hunger strike, why are they not giving permission to journalists to visit Curtin? Everytime, they are
telling lies. A journalist in Derby was told by Serco they couldn’t visit. The journalist will try to see by helicopter, take pictures of the situation, but this is an air force area so maybe they will be unsuccessful. If Immigration would allow journalists to visit, they would see more than 300 sitting in the sun. They could check the mess list for the last two days and find out how many attended. More than
1000 are on hunger strike - fasting inside their rooms. Yesterday Immigration asked Serco to bring delegates to them. But we said no. We don’t want to talk to this Immigration. We want someone from Canberra. We are waiting – drinking water – no problem."



Up to 30 Afghan detainees at Curtin detention centre have launched a hunger strike

AFGHAN asylum seekers taking part in protests and hunger strikes at the Curtin detention centre are demanding they be granted "freedom or death".

The Department of Immigration has confirmed between 20 and 30 asylum seekers are engaged in voluntary starvation, refusing food offered by the detention centre staff.

The hunger strike is part of a larger protest which started on Monday night at the facility in WA's north and at times involved up to 150 asylum seekers, the department said.

However, Ian Rintoul from the Refugee Action Coalition said he had spoken to several detainees at Curtin who told him about 300 asylum seekers were involved.

"There's about 300 who are part of the protest with placards and banners made out of bed sheets and pillow cases outside the Department of Immigration offices in the detention centre itself,'' Mr Rintoul said.

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According to a statement issued by advocate Jack Smit from Project SafeCom, an Afghan refugee said one young man had attempted to kill himself on Monday morning.

"He cut himself all over his body. They took him to the hospital in the morning and brought him back to his room in the evening. He is still in his room," the unnamed man said.

"Now more than 300 people are on hunger strike sitting in the hot sun with no shadow, no shade."

The asylum seeker said all of the approximately 1100 detainees at the facility were involved in the protest.

However, the Department of Immigration denied the claim.

Mr Rintoul said the asylum seekers were angry about the delays in the processing of their refugee claims and wanted answers from the Department of Immigration.

An immigration spokeswoman said due to the high volume of claims, processing would take some time, but those who were found to be owed Australian protection would receive it.

She said the protest would not affect the outcome of the detainees' asylum seeker claims.

"People found to be owed Australian protection will receive it, and those found not to be refugees through our robust system will be returned home either voluntarily or through the mechanism of the new Memorandum of Understanding with Afghanistan," she said.

"Protest actions such as this does not alter the outcome of asylum claims or any other aspect of detention or processing."She also said the internet had been down for a short period while scheduled maintenance was conducted on the server but detainees had been told in advance of the outage.

"Protest actions such as this does not alter the outcome of asylum claims or any other aspect of detention or processing," she said.

The Afghan asylum seeker said the detainees have resorted to protesting after a lack of response from immigration staff at the detention centre.

"We have taken the white boards from the classroom. We have written on them with the marker `we want freedom or death; we want protection not detention; we want positive outcome'," he said.

"We will continue til someone comes with authority. We are ready. See it on the whiteboard - freedom or death."

Mr Rintoul said several detainees had been told their claims for asylum had been accepted, but they were still in detention waiting for their visa.

"They've take a fairly punitive response to the hunger strike".

He said detainees have told him that in response to the protest the centre's service provider Serco have cut internet access and are not allowing use into the recreational room.
"They've take a fairly punitive response to the hunger strike".

On Monday, Immigration Minister Chris Bowen announced Australia had signed a landmark deal with Afghanistan which would see those Afghans whose asylum claims have failed be sent home.

Mr Rintoul said although the announcement had not triggered the protest, it had compounded the concerns and anxieties of the asylum seekers.

The Afghan man said the agreement with President Hamid Karzai was "like signing an agreement with our enemy''.