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April 21, 2021

Asylum seekers protest on Manus Island

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The Manus Island detention centre. Image from the Dept of Immigration Flickr stream
The Manus Island detention centre. Image from the Dept of Immigration Flickr stream

Asylum seekers at the Manus Island Detention Centre are staging a protest but authorities have denied claims by a refugee advocacy group that they are hunger striking.

Refugee Action Coalition spokesman Ian Rintoul said early on Wednesday that hundreds of asylum seekers at the centre on the Papua New Guinea island were on hunger strike and refusing to return to their rooms.

At least one detainee in Mike Compound had stitched his lips together in protest, Mr Rintoul said in a statement.

He said the protest began on Tuesday morning as running water stopped on Manus Island meaning there was no water for showers or other washing.

Mr Rintoul said other compounds were expected to join the protest on Wednesday.

‘Threats by guards to send in PNG police to disperse the protesters and force the asylum seekers in Mike Compound back to their rooms have only added to the fears and the tensions in the detention centre,’ he said.

But an Australian Immigration Department spokesman said claims that transferees at the processing centre were “involved in food and fluid refusal” were incorrect.

‘The department can confirm a number of transferees are engaged in a peaceful protest within the centre.

‘The centre remains calm and service provider staff are engaging with the group,’ the spokesman said in a statement.

Mr Rintoul said detainees deemed to be genuine refugees by authorities are soon to be transferred to a new centre on the island at East Lorengau, where they fear they will be vulnerable to attacks by locals.

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