A group of Iraqi, Kurdish and Iranian asylum seekers have sewn their own lips together at the Christmas Island detention camp in Australia, the BBC is reporting. An Iraqi man, Ahmad Al Akabi, killed himself in a Sydney detention center a week ago.
The protesters are accepting sugar and water. There is a mandatory detention policy for people seeking asylum in Australia, reports the AFP, with detention centers currently stretched to capacity. Rights groups are asking Australia to abandon the policy after the recent suicide and the death of a Fujian asylum seeker, Josefa Rauluni, who jumped to his death in September.
Despite the deaths, the Australian government sys that it will not change its asylum policies. Immigration Minister Chris Bowen told ABC:
As I understand it, the protest is generally about the situation in their home country, wanting to emphasise that they should be accepted as refugees and the amount of time it takes for processing.
I need to say very clearly that our process is that genuine refugees are accepted, non-genuine refugees are returned.
"Now it is the case that we have seen increased rejection rates of asylum claims. As I've said recently, we can expect more tension as a result of that. But our policy will remain the same.
In 2002, 70 asylum seekers sewed their own lips shut at the detention center of Woomera, which is now closed. According to the AFP, Ian Rintoul of the Refugee Action Coalition told ABC:
We have got people who have been in 18 months and they don't know whether they are going to get out next week, next month or if they are there for another six months.
It's that uncertainty which creates the despair inside the detention centres and leads to this kind of protest.
The Christmas Island detention center currently has close to 3,000 inmates.