11 Dec 2003

Group of asylum seekers on Nauru go on hunger strike

11:24 am on 11 December 2003

A number of asylum seekers on Nauru have reportedly gone on an indefinite hunger strike, some sewing their lips together, to coincide with world Human Rights Day .

Hassan Ghulam, president of the Hazara Ethnic Society of Australia, says the refugees, including some children, wanted to stage a non-violent protest to highlight their plight.

He says he received a phone call from one of the Nauru refugees telling him of the hunger strike.

Mr Gulam says this is not a hunger strike for a day or two, it will be continuing until they get a result.

Hundreds of refugees, including 85 children, are being held on the island as part of the Howard government's Pacific solution to keep boat people away from Australia.

Mr Ghulam says conditions on the island are less than ideal, with running water reduced to two hours a day.

He says up to six of the refugees are under psychiatric care in the Nauru Hospital and one attempted suicide last week.

A spokesman for Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone said he was unaware of the hunger strike.