ADELAIDE, Australia - Six Iranians held at an outback immigration detention centre north of here have begun a hunger strike, some with their lips sewn together, in an attempt to have their plea for asylum reviewed, officials said Wednesday.
The six are members of a group of 70 Iranian men who have been held, some for years, at the Baxter detention centre, near Port August in South Australia after their applications for refuge were turned down by Australian authorities.
In a statement published on a refugee advocates' website they said their protest was a "desperate plea to draw the attention of the Australian people to our situation."
"Today three Iranian men in W2 (compound) have sewn their lips together and are on hunger strike," the statement said.
"Three others are hunger striking on the roof of the gym and will stay there indefinitely. Many others will join the strike in the coming days and we will continue until our situation is resolved.
"Many of us have been here for four or five years and we are tired, frustrated and extremely depressed.
"We have been used for political purposes by the Australian government and have lost our freedom, our dignity, our hope, even our individual personalities.
"We simply ask that our cases be reviewed. This has been done for all other national groups of long-term detainees. We simply ask to be recognized as genuine refugees and to be granted protection so that we can get on with our lives."
Refugee advocate Jack Smit said the hunger strikers were determined to die unless their cases were reviewed. Some detainees had sent their wills to refugee advocates.
"They will definitely hunger strike until they die -- they all have nothing to lose," he said.
A group of Sri Lankan detainees at Baxter ended a 10-day hunger strike on Friday, with refugee advocates announcing the immigration department had agreed to review their cases. But Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone said suggestions that hunger strikes could prompt the immigration department to treat detainees' more favourably were dangerous as they raised false hopes and encouraged harmful behaviour.