Afghan mass hunger strike at Pointville


Frustrations over the Immigration department’s reneging on promises of community detention and bridging visas for long term detainees have spilled over to the Pontville detention centre in Tasmania.

Around 150, more than half of the Afghan asylum seekers at Pontville detention centre in Tasmania are now involved in a hunger strike. The asylum seekers have been in detention between 15 and 33 months.

“We have been a long time in detention with no result,” one Pontville asylum seeker told the Refugee Action Coalition on Monday night. Immigration told us that we would get community detention and bridging visa to get us out, but there is nothing. We have been waiting too long.”

A smaller group of around 34 have been on hunger strike for seven days. So far, at least three of them have been hospitalised.

In the last two days, the hunger strike has been joined by over 100 other Hazara asylum seekers.

The Refugee Action Coalition (RAC) has been told that even more asylum seekers could join the hunger strike.

“The government has reneged everywhere on its promise to release detainees on bridging visas or community detention. The announcement was a cruel hoax,” said RAC spokesperson, Ian Rintoul, “There is nothing like 100 visas a month being issued and tensions are growing in all the detention centres.

“Darwin asylum seekers have been told there will be 30 visas by the end of the month, but so far there is no sign of that either. The Minister’s lies are coming back to bite him. The Pontville protest may just be the beginning. It is a disgrace that he can raise hopes and then smash them in this way. It is a form of mental torture. If there is a bigger wave of protests, the responsibility will be at the Minister’s feet.

“We are coming up to the anniversary of the protests on Christmas Island, you would think the Minister might have learned his lesson. The vast majority of detainees have indicated friends and relatives that are willing to assist them to live in the community. The only thing that is missing is the Minister’s willingness to act.”