For original text visit: http://www.skynews.com.au/topstories/article.aspx?id=811838
“A large group of asylum seekers on Nauru have started a hunger strike.
The immigration department says the group began a ‘peaceful protest’ on Thursday morning and are refusing meals.
A departmental spokesman says there are currently about 50 men involved in the protest but the numbers have been fluctuating throughout the day.
Refugee advocate Ian Rintoul said the protesters were refusing meals because they are outraged by recent attempted suicides and self-harm incidents.
Mr Rintoul, of the Refugee Action Coalition, said the protesters were demanding they be taken back to Australia and their refugee processing begin immediately.
‘We are not criminals,’ Mr Rintoul quoted one of them as saying.
‘We did nothing wrong. We did not come to Nauru. We came to Australia for protection.’
Mr Rintoul said the situation on Nauru was explosive.
‘The government has created an intolerable situation on Nauru,’ he said.
‘Asylum seekers have been left with no idea when their claims will be processed and what will be their ultimate fate. They have no choice but to protest.’
The protest comes as the department revealed four Iraqis and two Iranians on the island had volunteered to return home.
The department said the six men chose not to pursue asylum claims or continue waiting in Nauru.
‘Transfers from Nauru, as well as across the Australian immigration detention network will continue,’ a spokesman said.
Eighty-two people have voluntarily returned to their countries since the government embraced its tough new offshore processing policies in August.
The hunger strike comes as federal parliament approved construction of a permanent immigration detention centre on Nauru.
Special Minister of State Gary Gray told parliament the urgent nature of the works meant they needed to be approved without going through the usual committee examination.
His motion passed unopposed.
Earlier this week the lower house passed legislation to appropriate $267 million to build centres on Nauru and Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island”