Six asylum seekers restart hunger strike

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 02 August, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 02 August, 2006, 12:00am

Six asylum seekers at an immigration detention centre in Tuen Mun have resumed a hunger strike to press their demand for immediate release.

The hunger strikers, some of whom refused to eat for a week last month while demanding their bail applications be processed, stopped eating on Monday.

The men, from Africa, Sri Lanka and Nepal, are claiming asylum under the UN Convention Against Torture, and as such cannot be repatriated unless their claims are turned down by the government.

An Immigration Department spokeswoman said none of the six hunger strikers was receiving medical attention, but their 'health condition will be closely monitored'.

There are 120 asylum seekers and torture claimants at the Castle Peak Bay immigration detention centre.

A friend of the hunger strikers, who did not want to be named, said the men were dissatisfied with the outcome of the last hunger strike.

'They were told that Immigration would deal with their cases, but they're not happy with the action [Immigration] have taken so far,' he said.

Last month at least two hunger-striking detainees were released during the protest.

A spokeswoman for Christian Aid, an organisation that monitors the welfare of asylum seekers, said: 'They all want to be bailed immediately.'

The Security Bureau told legislators this week that of the 1,800 asylum seekers or torture claimants listed in Hong Kong by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 350 had been granted bail, while 120 remained in detention. The remainder had been allowed in and were applying for help from the UNHCR as asylum seekers.

Of the 120 detained, more than a quarter have been held for over six months, according to government figures.

Legislators at a meeting of the security panel on Monday passed a motion urging the government to co-operate with the UNHCR to speed up processing of asylum seekers.