Afghans Threaten A Hunger Strike

Afghans threaten a hunger strike

Simon Kearney
From: The Australian
December 28, 2009 12:00AM

EIGHTY Afghan asylum-seekers in an Indonesian detention centre that also holds 63 Sri Lankans whose claims are being fast-tracked are threatening to stage a hunger strike.

The Afghans' frustration comes amid signs Indonesia will refuse to help process asylum-seekers targeting Australia.

Indonesia's patience with the so-called “Indonesian Solution” to process Australia's asylum-seekers in the island archipelago appears to be running out.

The Indonesian Foreign Ministry's director of diplomatic security, Sujatmiko, who led negotiations with Australia to process the Sri Lankans quickly on Bintan, has told the state news agency Antara that it was a once-only deal.

“This will be the last time we are helping Australia deal with its foreign refugee influx problem,” Sujatmiko said.

It is bad news for the Afghan group, which has been detained for nine months after being captured before they could reach Australia. Their 16-year-old spokesman Maisum Hussein told The Australian they had been kept in the dark about the special deal done for their fellow detainees at the Australian-funded centre on the Indonesian resort island near Singapore. He said they were considering a hunger strike now as the only option to highlight their plight.

“We are ready to die, but Australia is our destiny,” he said.

The young man said he found it difficult to understand how their claim could be any less valid. “In Afghanistan, we are under (the) barbarity of Taliban,” Maisum said.

“All my family members are killed in Afghanistan.

“They (the Sri Lankans) are also in same camp with us. They are also in Indonesia as we are. Why the UNHCR or Australia can't free us?

“We are like slave behind the cell (locked up). What is our guilt, that we abandon Afghanistan?”

The Afghans have been kept, 20 to a cell, in the facility in Bintan's capital Tanjung Pinang, for nine months. They have complained of beatings by guards, the theft of their money, no air-conditioning in the steamy climate and not being allowed to exercise.

Maisum said some of his fellow detainees needed medical attention and psychological counselling.

An Ottawa-based Afghan doctor, Farouq Samim, said he believed as many as 80 per cent of the population in his war-torn country had some form of post-traumatic stress disorder.

A spokesman for Immigration Minister Chris Evans said yesterday negotiations were continuing over the ultimate destination of the remaining 63 of the original 78 Tamil asylum-seekers from the Oceanic Viking.

“The minister is not going to be providing an ongoing commentary on negotiations,” he said.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees has so far referred 13 to Canada and two to Australia, having found them to be bona fide refugees with family connections in the countries.

The Australian government has given a commitment to the Indonesian government that the refugees would all be resettled by tomorrow.


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