Villawood Hunger Strike Suspended

Villawood hunger strike suspended

The Sydney Morning Herald
November 10, 2008 – 8:58PM

A three-day hunger strike at Sydney's Villawood Detention Centre is over after a meeting between detainees and immigration officials wrapped up late Monday.

An Immigration Department spokesman said the strike ended about 6pm (AEDT), after a meeting lasting several hours.

He said dialogue with the detainees would continue.

“The action that has been taken by detainees is over,” he said.

“Observations by staff inside the centre indicate all people are eating.”

Refugee Action Coalition spokesman Ian Rintoul said detainees had agreed to suspend the strike for seven days, but would continue it and other protest action if their concerns were not met.

He said detainees believed the government was not acting quickly enough on its planned detention reforms, due to be implemented next year.

Mr Rintoul said around 135 detainees had taken part in the strike.

“Very little has changed for people actually in detention,” he said.

Mr Rintoul called for Immigration Minister Chris Evans to convene a roundtable with detainees and refugee advocacy groups.

“The minister now has the opportunity to take the lead at implementing serious change to detention and refugee determination,” he said.

“There is a good chance to take another step towards a genuinely humanitarian refugee and detention policy.”

Under a raft of changes to the Migration Act, asylum seekers and visa overstayers will be detained only if they are judged to pose a risk to the community.

The immigration department will also have to justify every three months why a person is being detained.