Original text at: http://www.abc.net.au/pm/content/2012/s3636099.htm

“MARK COLVIN: There are concerns for two asylum seekers on the island (Nauru), they’ve been transferred to the local hospital as a result of a hunger strike. An Iraqi man was taken hospital on Saturday after one of his kidneys shutdown. Another detainee, an Iranian man called Omid, has been on hunger strike for more than five weeks.

Lindy Kerin reports.

LINDY KERIN: The Iraqi man was rushed to hospital over the weekend. He’d been refusing meals for eight days and then started refusing water.

Ian Rintoul, from the Refugee Action Coalition, says doctors at the camp decided the man needed further attention.

IAN RINTOUL: He had severe pain and was told by the IH&MS (International Health and Medical Services) doctor that his kidney had failed, one kidney had failed.

LINDY KERIN: An Iranian asylum seeker known as Omid has also been transferred to the Republic of Nauru Hospital. Today is day 40 of his hunger strike and he’s reportedly said that ‘it’s better to die than to live on Nauru’.

IAN RINTOUL: We’ve got a very, very serious situation. Both of them are continuing their hunger strike and Omid has refused any kind of treatment. So I think the Minister is certainly looking at the possibility of one death, which may not be too far away, at Nauru.

LINDY KERIN: What’s your understanding about whether his family knows the state that he’s in?

IAN RINTOUL: As far as I know his family doesn’t know, because he didn’t want his family to know his situation and what he was doing. He said they had enough to be concerned about, but it was something that he had to do.

LINDY KERIN: And if today’s day 40 for Omid…


LINDY KERIN: …how much longer can he go on for?

IAN RINTOUL: Well I mean, look, some hunger strikes historically, if you think of the Irish hunger strikers for example, some of then went into the mid-60s. There was a Villawood man, he went into the mid-50s days before he ended his hunger strike.

I think a lot depends on the condition, the health and outlook of people when they begin the hunger strike. And in any case at 40 days, even when people have been in the best of health, it is the time that’s generally seen as a point of, not the point of no return, but the point where there is a very high likelihood of permanent damage and irreversible damage. And it also is the time where there can be premature death.

LINDY KERIN: Nobody from the Immigration Department was available to be interviewed by PM. But a spokeswoman says International Health and Medical Services staff continue to provide nursing support at the hospital and that both men are in a stable condition. They’ve also confirmed that a handful of detainees back at the detention centre are also refusing meals.

Ian Rintoul says five Iranian men are entering their third week of hunger strike.

IAN RINTOUL: The demands of all the people remain the same, they want Nauru to be closed, they want to return to Australia and for their processing to begin. And I mean all the indications are, you know, that the tensions are getting worse.

So the more people are going to come on hunger strike I can’t say. But there is growing concern at what’s happening to Omid. The fact that you’ve got 15 people being charged with riots this morning. I mean the tensions are rising.

LINDY KERIN: Professor of psychiatry, Louise Newman, used to head of the now disbanded immigration health advisory group. She says she’s heard there are more than two detainees who’ve been transferred to the Nauru hospital.

LOUISE NEWMAN: I’m hearing three or four. So these are sick people, people who’ve become so unwell that they can’t be managed in the detention centre are now in the Nauru hospital; which would be the equivalent to a very small hospital in a remote part of Australia, if you want to look at what it might be like.

LINDY KERIN: The situation on Nauru has attracted the attention of Amnesty International. Two representatives arrived on the island today for a four-day visit. They’re expected to visit asylum seekers at the detention centre and the hospital.

Ian Rintoul from the Refugee Action Coalition has applied for a visa to visit the centre himself, but until his trip’s approved, he’s hoping the Amnesty International visit will shed some light on conditions there.

MARK COLVIN: Lindy Kerin.”