by Allanah Leahy – EM TV Online
Over 500 asylum seekers held at the Manus detention centre are now on hunger strike, The Guardian Australia reports.
Tensions among detainees are reportedly on high, with the mass hunger strike now involving over 500 men; at least two men have also stitched their lips together. A sign at the detention centre from Transfield Services, the firm contracted to run the detention centre, notifies of broken down water facilities and resulting water restrictions.
“Some of our equipment we use to provide water to the Centre has broken down. This means that we have to impose water restrictions on staff and transferees until further notice,” the sign reads.
The detainees are asking for proper and swift assessment of their refugee status as some have been detained for over a year and a half. They have also been asking not to be resettled in Papua New Guinea where they believe they will be attacked and possibly killed. Reinforcing this, a local security guard at the detention centre’s Oscar compound told The Guardian Australian that the locals would not allow any of them to live in their community.
The hunger strike is a continuance from yesterday, when it began in Mike compound; detainees from the Oscar compound have also voted for a hunger strike, with the Foxtrot compound saying they will also join.
The detainees have asked to be handed over to the United Nations high commissioner for refugees rather than resettle in Papua New Guinea for fear of being attacked and abused. A protest sign put up in the detention centre reads:
“We asylum seekers fear to be resettled in PNG. Please hand us over to the UN. Two years in detention. Enough is enough.”
Spokesman for the Refugee Action Coalition, Ian Rintoul, told the ABC that most of the asylum seekers been at the detention centre for almost 18 months.
“For most of them there is still no refugee determination and no end in sight to the indefinite detention for what is perhaps the worst hell-hole that Australia has created,” he said. Rintoul also said that plans to move the refugee-status detainees to ‘insecure accommodation’ in Lorengau contributed to the high tensions.
He said only 71 out of over a thousand asylum seekers have been granted refugee status.
“I think that this has just heightened the fears that they’re extremely vulnerable to the locals. The memory of the killing of Reza Barati is very fresh in their minds,” Rintoul said.