Security Stepped Up As Hunger Strike Rolls On

Security stepped up as hunger strike rolls on

Joel Gibson
Brisbane Times
April 7, 2007

MORE than 20 hunger strikers entered their 10th straight day without food yesterday as authorities reinforced fences and put on extra officers in anticipation of a torrid Easter weekend at Sydney's Villawood detention centre.

Devotees of the Falun Gong sect and supporters are protesting against the alleged rough tactics of the Department of Immigration and detention centre guards during three deportations of Chinese citizens in the past fortnight.

Eight or nine hunger strikers are swallowing only water, according to differing reports, while about 15 others are accepting other liquids. Yuan Huimil, the sole woman among them, was taken to hospital on Wednesday night for rehydration and is now under medical supervision.

Extra guards, NSW police officers and an ambulance have been stationed at Villawood, detainees say.

The protesters are demanding that the Federal Government stop forced deportations and long-term detention and that it contact lawyers and refugee groups before deportations.

“The minister cannot pretend he doesn't know either about the mistreatment of the Chinese detainees in Villawood or the human rights abuses of the Chinese Government,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesman for the Refugee Action Coalition. “We are urging him to urgently intervene before the hunger strikers suffer long-term damage to their health or worse.”

A spokeswoman for the Immigration Minister, Kevin Andrews, said only three activists attended a protest outside Villawood on Thursday but more were expected on Monday.