24 Dec 2003

Nauru doctor warns some hunger strikers may die as number of protesters grows

2:16 pm on 24 December 2003

Australian Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone has again urged asylum seekers on Nauru to abandon their fortnight-old hunger strike.

Senator Vanstone has received a preliminary report from an Australian delegation, which returned from Nauru yesterday, that the hunger strikers were determined to continue their protest against Australian plans to repatriate them to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Meanwhile, a doctor treating the hunger strikers has warned that one of them could die because of mounting pressure on the island's hospital.

Dr Kieran Keke says most of the hunger strikers are young, fit men who are now experiencing problems with dehydration.

Some are in pain simply from not eating and being dehydrated,

Dr Keke says they are being offered pain killers but some are refusing to take them or other medication.

He says the hospital has coped well to date but if medical resources are .

stretched further, then some may slip through the loop and there is a risk that someone could die.

Dr Keke has accused the Australian government of being reluctant to provide the medical support needed as the number of hunger strikers rose to forty.

He says there has been what he calls " a degree of reluctance" by the Australian government to offer the assistance he says is needed.