MORE than 160 Afghan asylum seekers held in Indonesia are on a hunger strike demanding transfer to Australia.
The men have been on a hunger strike for almost four days, with some needing hospital treatment, an official said yesterday.
“They started the hunger strike on Monday evening,” said Muhammad Yunus Junaid, head of the detention centre on Bintan island near Singapore, adding there were 169 asylum seekers, all male and aged 17 to 40.
“They said they could not stand staying in the centre any longer. They want to go to Australia and live a normal life there,” he said.
Forty of the asylum seekers detained at the Tanjung Pinang city detention centre were sent to hospital on Thursday and put on drips, some suffering from anaemia and others losing consciousness, Junaid said.
Thirty-five have since been released and are back on hunger strike.
Some of the asylum seekers had been locked up for two years before striking to pressure the United Nations High Commission for Refugees into granting them refugee status, which would let them apply to go to Australia, Junaid said.
Junaid said that about 50 migrants from Burma at the same centre also went on a hunger strike last week for three days but they were not granted refugee status.
Indonesia is a common transit point for asylum seekers trying to reach Australia, but many of the overloaded, rickety boats do not make it.
In December, a boat carrying around 250 mostly Afghan and Iranian asylum seekers sank in Indonesian waters on its way to Christmas Island, with only 47 surviving.