JakartaGlob - As many as 160 Afghan asylum seekers detained in the Indonesian city of Tanjungpinang have been holding a hunger strike for over two weeks in protest of their prolonged detention. The detainees are demanding they be released to Australia.
M. Yunus Junaid, the head of Tanjungpinang immigration detention center, said on Friday that some of the detainees had to be hospitalized as a result of their hunger strike.
“This morning, 12 immigrants were rushed to hospital because they lost consciousness,” Yunus said, adding that 15 Afghans and three Burmese immigrants had been admitted to a hospital two weeks ago at the beginning of the hunger strike.
Yunus said most of those hospitalized lacked appropriate levels of sugar in their blood. “The standard medical procedures oblige them to undergo a health check if they don’t eat for 24 hours. But they refused [the check-up].”
Yunus added more of the immigrants would likely be hospitalized if the strike continues, but said there was little the detention center officers could do other than urging the detainees to eat and monitoring their condition.
The strike, according to Yunus, is meant to pressure the Indonesian government and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to immediately determine the immigrants’ statuses as refugees, and fly them to Australia.
Many of the immigrants have been living in the detention center for as long as two years, and some have reportedly threatened to riot
if the UNHCR fails to answer their demands.
“We and some officers from the UNHCR have talked them out of the anarchistic actions. [We told them] if they do so, they will face the police,” Yunus said.
Indonesia has been a traditional transit point for asylum seekers from western Asia and Africa trying to reach Australia.
At the end of December last year, Indonesia’s immigration office reported that the country hosted over 3,600 foreign asylum seekers pending the processing of their statuses by the UNHCR.