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“The Department says it’s aware there are about 170 asylum seekers on Nauru engaging in a “peaceful protest”.

The Department spokesman says that while some have said they are refusing food and water, just because they say they are doing so doesn’t mean they “engaged in voluntary starvation”.

He has confirmed to the ABC that there was an act of self-harm overnight at the camp.

Department officials say the man was treated at the site for superficial injuries.

A man who says he is a detainee on Nauru told Radio Australia’s parent organisation, the ABC, that a mass hunger strike has started.

The man, who gave his name as Mohammed, told Laetitia Lemke the hunger strike will continue until the asylum seekers get answers from the government about their situation.

Presenter:Laetitia Lemke

Speaker: A man called Mohammed who says he is an asylum seeker being detained on Nauru

MOHAMMED: We had a peaceful protest before many times, peaceful protest, but there is not any response from the government or any organisation and we have to start the hunger protest from this morning to get any response from any organisation.

LEMKE: So how many people are protesting?

MOHAMMED: All people, all people are in hunger process, yeah.

LEMKE: Are you saying everybody in the camp is on a hunger strike?

MOHAMMED: Yeah, everybody.

LEMKE: And what is it that you want to see happen?

MOHAMMED: To answer about that what will happen to us here. We want to start our claim processing and what will happen to us. If you ask from the Immigration question, they don’t know anything. They don’t answer your questions about how little bit of processing, how will be the future. They don’t answer us. Every people ask them questions, they say just I can’t answer this question, I don’t know about that. Why they don’t answer us?

LEMKE: So that’s a real growing frustration, because people don’t know what’s happening to them?

MOHAMMED: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. For example, from a boat arriving in Christmas Island, there were 80 people. Just they pick up 30 people and they send to Nauru. The other people they sent to Darwin, to Perth and then they in Christmas Island. What’s the difference between those people they sent to Nauru and they in Darwin, what is different?

LEMKE: So people there feel like it’s unfair that they’ve been sent to Nauru, when other people from the same boat were sent to Darwin?

MOHAMMED: Yeah, yeah.

LEMKE: How’s the mental health of people in the camp?

MOHAMMED: People are hopeless here. They cannot focus in anything. They just talk about their problem, nothing else. Because of that, most of people they cannot sleep, they cannot do any activity. You know this is a problem, because of this heat, people cannot decide to do anything.

LEMKE: So the heat and mosquitoes as well?

MOHAMMED: Yeah, during the day, no one can go into tent for rest, because of the heat. There are sometimes, but it’s not working. Yeah, it doesn’t work the fans, anything. The heat is, people become hopeless they cannot decide what is good, what is bad. People harm themselves everyday.

LEMKE: And in what way are people harming themselves?

MOHAMMED: We had a hanging up here as well. Yesterday, we had hanging up because of hopeless ? One person you climb there, climb from there and he hanging up himself. But fortunately, the security cut the rope”