SYDNEY (AFP) – Some 15 asylum seekers hoping to make it to Australia and detained in Papua New Guinea have sewn their lips together and 400 are on hunger strike, a report said Thursday.
A spokesman for Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton did not comment on the scale of the protest, while conceding that some asylum seekers at a detention centre had harmed themselves. He insisted that the protest was “peaceful”.
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation, citing reports from asylum seekers, said that the group were protesting against their detention, living conditions and the prospect of being permanently resettled in the Pacific nation.
Refugees caught heading for Australia by boat are transferred to centres such as that in Papua New Guinea for processing under Canberra’s hardline asylum-seeker policies. If their refugee application is successful, they are permanently resettled outside Australia.
The ABC added that an Egyptian asylum seeker was also reportedly undergoing treatment on Manus Island, where the detention facility is located, after swallowing three razor blades.
An asylum seeker told the ABC two men had passed out after sewing their lips together.
Dutton’s spokesman insisted that the protesters were being given medical care and support.
“A small number of transferees have engaged in self-harm. They have been offered appropriate medical care,” the spokesman said in a statement. “There are also a number of transferees who are refusing food and fluids, again they are being offered appropriate support.”
The latest protests come a month before the first anniversary of a riot at the camp left one dead and 69 injured.