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Department Denials Issued As Hunger Strike Bites

by Selwyn Manning

Claims are being made that a number of the hunger striking asylum seekers, locked up at Auckland's Mt Eden Prison, are seriously ill.

But the Department of Corrections denies that the condition of the men is causing concern.

The asylum seekers are 18 men from Pakistan, India and Iran have been refused temporary permits to stay in New Zealand. They are protesting against, what they call a pathetically slow bureaucracy, and the New Zealand Government's policy of holding would-be-refugees in prison until their identity and status can be determined.

The protest hunger strike is into its second week. Amnesty International claims one has begun coughing up blood, while another has suffered a heart attack.

But according to Corrections Deprtment officials, Amnesty's claims are rubbish, and that prison staff are monitoring the health of the men constantly.

Immigration Minister, Tuariki Delamere, last week said the asylum seekers have been using illness as an excuse to stall their immigration appeal.

He said if the asylum seekers continued their policy of non-cooperation after having been found well enough to be interviewed, the Immigration Service would have no option but to decline their refugee status claims as the Service would not be able to make a decision based on fact or credibility.

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