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Protesting asylum seekers sew mouths shut JAKARTA - At least 40 Afghan asylum seekers in Bogor, south of Jakarta, have commenced a hunger strike, with several of them reportedly sewing their mouths shut, to protest the United Nationsí refusal to grant them refugee status. "They are frustrated. But the United Nations has given them an exceptional hearing. The Afghans have been given every possible consideration," Steve Cook, head of the Jakarta office of the International Office for Migration, was quoted as saying Tuesday (10/8/04) by the Associated Press.
He said at least 14 of the hunger strikers had sewn up their mouths, adding the group has been living for more than two years in a hostel in Bogor. Itís not the first time such a protest has been staged in Indonesia. Three Afghan asylum seekers on Lombok island, West Nusa Tenggara province, sewed up their lips in January 2004 after the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) ruled they were ineligible for asylum in a third country.
A similar hunger strike was carried out last year by Afghan asylum seekers on neighboring Sumbawa island. The hunger strikes ended after the Afghans were hospitalized. More than 100 asylum seekers from Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran, have been living on Lombok for over two years. All of them have been denied refugee status by the UNHCR, preventing them from entering Australia, New Zealand or other third countries as political asylum seekers.
Indonesia is a key transit point for asylum seekers attempting to reach Australia, much to the annoyance of the Australian government, which in the past complained that Jakarta wasnít doing enough to curb the flow of illegal immigrants. In October 2001, a boat carrying more than 400 asylum seekers, mostly Iraqis and Afghans, sank in Indonesian waters while en route to Australia. At least 374 people drowned, including 150 children.
Australia and Indonesia have since held several conferences on people-smuggling in an effort to boost cooperation to combat the problem. Many Middle Eastern asylum seekers paid thousands of dollars to people smugglers for passage to Australia or New Zealand, only to be dumped in Indonesia. Most of them refuse to return to their countries of origin, claiming they could be killed because of their political affiliations.



Posted in Oddly enough ... @ 11 August 2004 00:02 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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