MOSCOW, January 19 (Sputnik), Anastasia Levchenko — Australia's Refugee Rights Action Network (RRAN) group calls for the end of the policy of mandatory detention amid a hunger strike at the Australian offshore internment camp on Papua New Guinea's Manus Island, the group's representative told Sputnik Monday.
The policy of mandatory detention of those who enter the country without a valid visa was introduced in Australia in 1992.
"The Refugee Rights Action Network (RRAN) maintains that the only way to protect the human rights of asylum seekers and refugees is to end mandatory detention. As long as these innocent men are held indefinitely in Australia's internment camp on Manus Island, they will be a subject to gross and deliberate human rights abuses," Michelle Bui, RRAN activist told Sputnik.
More than half of the detainees, held at an Australian offshore detention center on Papua New Guinea's Manus Island, have been on a hunger strike over the Australian government's plan to resettle them on the island, after the country's Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said on January 16 that detainees from the center would "never arrive in Australia".
Protesters claim they fear for their lives due to the detention conditions and possible attacks by locals. The asylum seekers are demanding the Australian government to either give them refugee status or hand over their cases to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
"We echo these calls for the UN to intervene and also insist that if the Department of Immigration has nothing to hide, they allow the men to speak with journalists and the media about their situation. These men are peacefully defending the rights that they are entitled to as human beings, and we will continue to support their struggle for freedom, amplify their voice and hold our government to account for the atrocities that they are responsible for and complicit in," Bui, who has been in direct contact with some of the detainees on Manus Island, said.
Asylum seekers, primarily from Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, travel to the Australian islands by boat and are settled in offshore detention camps, such as the one on Manus Island.
In order to put an end to week-long riots, security guards of the center entered the camp by force on Monday, manhandling refugees and taking away the alleged ringleaders. As a result of the raid, 30 people, believed to be leaders of the protest, were arrested, according to the Guardian Australia. Some of arrested will be taken to Chauka, an isolation unit on the island.
There have already been similar incidents in Australia earlier. Thus, in February 2014 a hunger strike at the detention center turned into a riot that left one refugee killed and some 70 people injured.