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Asylum seekers begin hunger strike at Villawood

Asylum seekers begin hunger strike at Villawood

Detainees at Villawood detention centre in Sydney began a hunger strike last night (ie Tuesday).

Asylum seekers and other immigration detainees joined together to stage the protest in the final days before the federal election on Saturday.

People of all nationalities ate their last meal at dinner Tuesday night.

The detainees are holding the protest to make sure that the plight of refugees and others in immigration detention are not forgotten in the lead up to the election.

"In 2001, the Howard government rode into government on the basis of lies told about asylum seekers. But this time the refugee issue has been the issue hoped the Howard government hoped would go away," said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.

"The hunger strike is a timely reminder of the horrors of mandatory detention. Despite the finding of the Human Rights Commision into children in detention there are 86 children still held in detention: 75 in high security facilities," he said.

"Many others like Peter Qasim in Baxter (who has begun his seventh year in detention) face indefinite detention and potential deportation to places like Iran and Iraq."

Refugee advocates have been told the hunger strikers began their protest because their suffereing was being ignored.

"This election is also a referendum on refugee policy," said Ian Rintoul, "The refugee movement is committed to fighting to end mandatory detention and to close the detention centres."

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