Hunger strike refugee near death in Australia


In Australia another asylum seeker is about to die in custody, this time by hunger strike. Saeed Hassanloo, who has been on hunger strike for more than 40 days, is near death. He has been refusing water for nearly a week. This is murder.

Saeed Hassanloo and his brother left Iran in 2009. Since arriving in Australia they have been held in detention centres for four and a half years; with one year in the community.

Both young men have now been asked to leave Australia and return to Iran. They will not, they left Iran because they feared for their safety. They wanted refuge. They want to be granted refugee status and live in Australia.

Like many refugees around the world they find themselves in limbo, denied asylum or refugee status and unable to return home, they must remain indefinitely in detention. (Australia cannot forcibly deport people to Iran.)

Saeed began a hunger strike in February and despite the fact that up until now the two brothers have always been detained together, on the last Saturday of March Saeed's older brother was transferred to Christmas Island. Since then Saeed has been refusing water. He is now close to death and has been transferred to a hospital in Perth.

A SERCO (the company that runs the Christmas Island detention centre) employee responded to a Facebook plea that Saeed's brother be updated with news of his brother's situation, with the response 'No, just let him suffer.' Other SERCO employees agreed, one describing Saeed as 'just a country shopper'. Their callous attitude mirrors the Australian Government's policy and practice in dehumanising asylum seekers.

Seeking asylum is a right - and Australia needs to recognise that.

The Australian government must start treating asylum seekers fairly. People are not going to stop seeking refuge until the wars, the genocides and the famines that drive people to desperation have stopped.

Saeed and his brother should not have spent four and a half years in detention centre. They should not have fought for the right to asylum since leaving Iran in 2009.

If Saeed dies, this cannot be 'written off' as a suicide. Saeed has been killed by official state policy. Saeed's death is murder.

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