2 Nov 2012

Asylum-seekers continue hunger strikes

9:03 pm on 2 November 2012

Hunger strikes are continuing at the Nauru detention centre, where Australian asylum seekers are being housed.

Australia's Department of Immigration is monitoring the welfare of those involved, the ABC reports.

The department says it's aware there are about 170 asylum seekers on Nauru engaging in a "peaceful protest".

Australia sent the group to Nauru as part of its revised offshore processing policy.

The Immigration Department says that while some have said they are refusing food and water, just because they say they are doing so doesn't mean they "engaged in voluntary starvation".

A man who says he is a detainee on Nauru has told the ABC that a mass hunger strike has started.

The man, who gave his name as Mohammed says the hunger strike will continue until the asylum seekers get answers from the Australian Government about their situation.

The Australian Human Rights Commission says the policy under which asylum seekers are being held on Nauru is a breach of international law.

Laws being broken - claim

Australian Human Rights Commission president Professor Gillian Triggs says that she believes laws are being broken and is considering taking the case to the UN Human Rights Committee.

"Our position at the Australian Human Rights Commission is that this is an egregious breach of refugee law and of general international law," Prof Triggs said.

"It amounts to an arbitrary detention of asylum seekers and really is unacceptable."

Future generations will look back at the country's current treatment of asylum seekers with disgust, she says.

Dr Graham Thom, the refugee coordinator with Amnesty International Australia, told the ABC he expected the protests would continue to intensify.

"It's the mental impact that's most difficult to mitigate against and that mental impact is exacerbated by uncertainty," Dr Thom said.

"When you hold vulnerable people in uncertain conditions, when they don't know when the process is even going to start, that's when you start to see problems."