18 Dec 2003

More asylum seekers join Nauru hunger strike

11:43 am on 18 December 2003

Australian refugee advocate, Elaine Smith, has reported that 11 more detainees on Nauru have joined a hunger strike, protesting living conditions.

24 detainees have been on a strike for more than a week including at least five men who sewed their lips together.

Ms Smith says there are now four men who have been hospitalised after losing consciousness.

She also says three men are under supervision after recent suicide attempts.

The Australian Immigration Minister, Amanda Vanstone, says the hunger-striking asylum seekers on Nauru are not the Australian government's problem.

Senator Vanstone says all of the detainees had been refused refugee status by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.

She has ruled out immediate federal government intervention, saying while the government put the asylum seekers in the Nauru centre, it is managed by the International Organisation for Migration, the IOM.

Meanwhile the UNHCR has not commented on the hunger strike except to say it has dispatched two staff to the island for a three monthly routine visit.