Asylum seekers on 3-day hunger strike

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 17 October, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 17 October, 2007, 12:00am

Twenty-nine asylum seekers in a Tuen Mun immigration detention centre staged a three-day hunger strike this month to demand their release, sparking renewed calls for a government policy on asylum.

The men, most of whom are from Southeast Asia and Africa, refused to take food provided by Castle Peak Bay Immigration Centre between October 2 and 4 in protest against their prolonged detention.

They demanded to be released on bail rather than remain in detention for immigration violations.

Similar hunger strikes have taken place before at the facility before.

The detainees ended their action after immigration officers agreed to look into their cases.

Human rights workers providing services at the centre claimed some of the strikers had been detained for almost a year, while the Immigration Department said most of them had been kept there for about a month.

Annie Lin, of the Society for Community Organisation, said the Immigration Department would not grant visas to asylum seekers while their claims were being examined by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

'This in effect criminalises the asylum seekers because they are forced to overstay their visas and face arrest and detention,' Ms Lin said.

A spokesman for the Immigration Department said: 'The fact that a person may be a refugee, asylum seeker or torture claimant will not lead to that person's prosecution or detention.

'However, a person who is found to be in violation of our laws may be liable to enforcement action.'