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Nauru asylum seekers on hunger strike, advocates claim

The asylum seeker processing facility in Nauru.MOST of the 381 asylum seekers on Nauru are on a one-day hunger strike, with protesters calling on the government to close the camp and begin processing their claims immediately, according to refugee advocates.
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The Department of Immigration rejects the claim that most asylum seekers on the island are taking part in a hunger strike. It considers people to have gone on hunger strike if they are observed to be missing three consecutive meals.

But Refugee Action Coalition spokesman Ian Rintoul told The Saturday Age he had spoken with three asylum seekers via Skype, all of whom said the hunger strike had begun.

The hunger strike coincided with Angam Day, a public holiday held to commemorate Nauru’s population rising above 1500 – the lowest considered sustainable for a population to survive – in 1949.

A Nauruan government spokesman said he was unable to confirm the reports because of the public holiday, but the Immigration Department said it was aware of only one person taking part in a hunger strike. Advocates believe that man has been refusing to eat for about two weeks. Another man was taken to the camp’s clinic on Thursday night after falling ill.

Meanwhile, the Nauru government says a deal was struck to charge Australia $1000 a month in visa fees for each asylum seeker detained on the island months ago.

The ABC revealed yesterday that visas for asylum seekers would be charged under a new category, Australian regional processing visas, which will cost $3000 a quarter for each asylum seeker. If the camp reaches its 1500-person capacity, the scheme would cost $90 million over five years.

A spokesman for Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said it was ”reasonable” that people transferred to Nauru held valid visas. ”No costs have been paid at this stage,” he said. ”The visa charges are the subject of discussions between Australia and Nauru, so it would not be appropriate to comment further. These ongoing costs are factored into the operating budget for Nauru.”

But a spokesman for the Nauru government said the matter had already been resolved.

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