Conditions At Nauru Asylum Center Causing Health Issues
MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, Nov. 6, 2012) – The Salvation Army has confirmed that conditions at Australia's asylum seeker processing centre on Nauru are creating health problems.
The Salvation Army has been tasked with observing detainees who may be showing signs of distress or mental health issues and referring them to the official health provider, International Health and Medical Services.
Its director of social programs, Major Paul Moulds, has told Radio Australia'sPacific Beat that conditions at the Nauru detention centre are "very harsh."
"People are sleeping under tents. The tents are very hot, there is no doubt about it," he said.
"I have to say that our staff also is under exactly the same tents and it is uncomfortable and it is difficult.
"We live, all of us, both asylum seekers and staff, in the hope that in the not too distant future conditions will improve."
His comments come as a hunger strike by asylum seekers at the processing centre enters its fifth day.
Refugee advocates say around 300 people arerefusing food and water in a bid to get better treatment at the centre and more information about when their claims will be processed.
Up to 10 people have been given medical treatment, suffering from what the Australian Department of Immigration calls "heat exhaustion."
Refugee groups say up to 30 people have collapsed this week, but that number cannot be independently verified.
The Immigration Department has accused advocacy groups of exaggerating the number of protesters and the severity of the medical problems they are encountering.
It says more than 300 meals were eaten on Sunday, and the situation is being carefully monitored.
A department spokesman has told Pacific Beat that all detainees - including those on hunger strike - have ready access to food, water and medical care.
The Refugee Action Coalition's spokesman, Ian Rintoul, toldPacific Beat the Immigration Department is "desperate" to pretend the situation on Nauru is not serious.
"There's very clearly a hunger strike and a serious situation developing on Nauru and I think the government will be far better addressing that rather than trying to deflect with some idea that the seriousness can be measured by the amounts of meals or whatever that may have been eaten on a particular day," he said.
The Salvation Army's Major Moulds says he can't confirm the exact number of people who are participating in hunger strike.
"What I can say is the situation is variable. It is hard as the Department of Immigration rightly says," he said.
"It is hard at times to determine who actually abstaining from food and whose not. There is a large number of people who are participating in that, but I think different people are coming in and out of it at different time.
"Certainly people are protesting in a peaceful way. They're obviously voicing a discontent about their situation."
Meanwhile, two asylum seekers will face court on Nauru later this month over damage caused to facilities at the island's immigration processing centre.
In September, a group of asylum seekers allegedly damaged tents and electrical equipment in a protest over their detention.
A spokesman for the Nauruan government said two men have been charged over the incident, but an investigation was ongoing.
He said some asylum seekers were refusing to cooperate with police.
The spokesman added asylum seekers have been warned that while on the island they are subject to Nauruan law.
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