Hazara People: Our sources say that hundreds of Hazara asylum seekers are on a hunger strike from last night because the Department of Immigration did not allow the human rights visitor to come inside the Curtin detention centre.
Government dismisses hunger strike claims
The Immigration Department says it cannot confirm whether asylum seekers are on a hunger strike at the Curtin detention centre in Western Australia’s north, insisting it is a ”peaceful protest”.
The department’s comments followed a claim by refugee advocate Ian Rintoul that a hunger strike and sit-in involving about 300 detainees had begun on Saturday morning.
Mr Rintoul said the protest was over visitors being prevented from going to the centre over the Easter weekend.
”The asylum seekers are asking that they be allowed to see refugee supporters, who have travelled from Perth and cities to see them over the Easter weekend,” Mr Rintoul said.
”Serco (the centre’s management company) have insisted that only one-on-one visits will be allowed, an arrangement that will only allow about 50 asylum seekers to see a visitor.”
In response, an Immigration Department spokeswoman denied there was a hunger strike, insisting that about 150 Afghan refugees had started a ”peaceful protest” on Saturday afternoon.
”I can confirm that some people skipped a meal but it’s not unusual to do that,” she said.
The spokeswoman said there was food available at the centre’s canteen and snacks like noodles were available in the tea room, which meant some detainees did sometimes skip meals in favour of snacks.
”The centre is calm. There are just some people sitting in the outdoor recreation area at the centre,” she said.
At the height of the protest on Saturday afternoon, 150 people participated in the sit-in, the spokeswoman said.
That number dropped to 50 by Saturday night, although it had risen again to about 80 people on Sunday morning, she said.
”I can’t comment on what they are protesting, but I can say that no protest will affect their processing or any aspect of their detention,” she said.
Meanwhile, three protesters remain on the roof of Sydney’s Villawood Detention Centre.
Two of the trio at Villawood have been on the roof since Wednesday morning, the same day a riot involving up to 100 detainees broke out leaving nine buildings gutted by fire.