23 Dec 2003

Afghan asylum seekers on Nauru continue hunger strike

11:32 am on 23 December 2003

Afghanistan's ambassador to Australia has urged Canberra to be patient in repatriating the nearly 300 boat people who have been detained in Nauru for more than two years.

Mahmoud Saikal says Afghanistan would prefer the Afghans, who account for most of the detainees were accepted at least temporarily by Australia.

Mr Saikal says they've already gone through a lot of problems and sewing the lips and hunger strikes is harming them more.

The ambassador says in June when he went to Nauru he found the women and children in a very bad condition.

Australia has sent a delegation to Nauru this week to report on the situation.

A doctor on the island says those caring for the hunger strikers are making a conscious effort to meet the patients' physical health needs, but he says the situation is a political one.

Dr Keirin Keke says at the moment they are caring for 8 hunger strikers.

"To date all the hunger strikers have accepted medical treatment."

We're seeing pretty much what we expected to be seeing. Mainly patients becoming extremely weak with dehydration. They're obviously quite flat, in terms of their mood, they're not very talkative.

Dr Keke says he understands 35 are on hunger strike, and so far they've seen about 16 of them.