20 Nov 2010

Asylum seekers sew lips together

12:33 am on 20 November 2010

The Australian government says 10 asylum seekers on Christmas Island have sown their lips together in protest against their detention.

They are part of a group of 160 who have been protesting peacefully at the detention centre, the ABC reports.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen says the incident is distressing for him and most of the Australian people, but will not change the outcome of their refugee applications.

"That remains the situation. It is very important that all our detainees in detention centres realise that protests such as this do not change visa application outcomes."

The group has been offered medical assistance but refused the offer.

The Government expects tension to increase among asylum seekers as more are refused recognition as refugees, Mr Bowen says.

The Christmas Island detention centre has been full for months, along with the rest of Australia's detention centres, the ABC reports.

The federal government recently announced it would build more centres, with about 5000 people currently in detention.

In 2002, under the Howard government, about 70 asylum seekers at the now-defunct Woomera facility in remote South Australia sewed their lips together in protest against their detention.