February 9, 2017

Asylum seeker on Manus Island on hunger strike

An Iranian asylum seeker detained at the regional processing centre on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea has gone on a hunger strike because of mental illness and fears of deportation.

Kurdish Iranian journalist Behrouz Boochani told The National the asylum seeker, a cartoonist known as Eaten Fish, aged 25, had lost six kilogrammes after he started a hunger strike six days ago.

“He is on hunger strike because he is seriously sick (and) he is under pressure from deportation,” Boochani said.

“There are not enough medical facilities in Manus for people with mental illnesses, if they want to help him they should take him to Australia.”

“I don’t know how he (Fish) is at the moment.

On Monday I tried to gain access to see him but the security guards stopped me,” Boochani said.

“Fish’s condition is gradually going from bad to worse, the pressure of his deportation is adding weight onto his situation,” Boochani said.

Fish is kept in a special supported accommodation compound known as the VSRA due to his mental and physical condition.

He said the refugee claim by Fish had been rejected by officials at the centre.

“Several times told him that they will deport him and that made his situation even worse,” Boochani said.

“The main issue at this moment in the centre is deportation of the asylum seekers.”

Fish won the 2016 award for Courage in Editorial Cartooning from Cartoonists Rights Network International in recognition for his cartoon work.

A significant rise in the number of irregular maritime arrivals forced the Australian Government in November 2012 to re-open the regional processing centre on Manus Island.

The asylum seekers were sent to Manus for offshore processing pursuant to an arrangement between the governments of PNG and Australia.

On April 26, last year the PNG Supreme Court ruled that detention of asylum seekers at the regional processing centre on Manus was unconstitutional.

The court said that the detention breached a person’s right to personal liberty as enshrined in the constitution.