12 Dec 2003

Australia says Nauru detainees should return to Afghanistan

5:08 pm on 12 December 2003

Australian immigration officials say there's no reason why failed asylum seekers on Nauru can't return home to Afghanistan.

The comment came after five more detainees sewed their lips together as part of a hunger strike in protest at conditions at the detention centre.

Australian immigration officials have confirmed that four detainees have taken the drastic action but refugee activists say five more have followed suit.

A spokesman for the immigration department, Steve Crawford, says the detainees should follow the example of 420 former detainees and return home.

"These people should be under no illusion that by taking these actions they will influence the Australian government to provide them with entry into Australia. It would actually be in their best interest if they were encouraged to stop their protest and instead turn their mind to returning to Afghanistan and getting on with their lives."

Mr Crawford says the protesters will be closely monitored and offered food, water and medical care.