21 January 2019: The Australian Border Force (ABF) has suggested there are no genuine hunger strikers at any of the immigration detention facilities within the country.
Authorities have claimed detainees “claiming to be on a hunger strike continue to be observed eating and drinking within the centres, despite not attending regular meal times”.
Because they are regularly eating their meals, they cannot technically be said to be on “hunger strike”, the government seems to argue.
However, anyone “genuinely conducting a hunger strike would be supported in line with normal processes, including through medical supervision and mental health care,” the ABF said in a press release today.
The government’s response comes amid chatter of a mass hunger strike at the Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation (MITA). According to a recent SBS report, dozens of detainees were “on a hunger strike in protest of their living conditions, which they claim are worse than those in a high-security prison”.
“There is no mass hunger strike within the Australian immigration detention network, or at any immigration centres,” the ABF reiterated in the press release. It further said that the ABF continues to work with key organisers of protest activity to discuss their concerns but strongly refuted claims that conditions in immigration detention facilities are inhumane or brutal.
“Immigration detention is used as a last resort and, where possible, unlawful non-citizens are accommodated in the community or in less restrictive alternative places of detention,” the press statement reads.
“It is important to note that a significant number of detainees have had their visas cancelled on character grounds, based on criminal convictions and links to criminal associations such as outlaw motorcycle gangs or organised crime. These individuals are free to return to their home countries at any time to await the outcome of any outstanding appeals,” the ABF pointed out.