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    Refugee near death on hunger strike

    Doctors have told Omid—the Iranian man on his 31st day of a hunger strike as of Sunday—that his kidneys and brain will soon fail, fellow asylum seekers have told the Canberra Times.

    Omid is one of many Iranians and others that the Australian government has sent to a camp in the Pacific island country of Nauru. Most believe Australia hopes they will be forgotten there and will eventually decide to go back where they came from.

    Another asylum seeker on Nauru said detainees had tried to encourage the skeletal Omid to eat but he responded, “It’s better to die than to live on Nauru.”

    A spokesman for the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship said medical staff continued to monitor the man’s condition and would provide treatment “if and when necessary.”

    Omid was the first man on Nauru to launch a hunger strike. He has since been joined by others, who were, as of Sunday, on their 11th day of protest.

    The asylum seekers say 300 men are on a hunger strike; the Immigration Department questions that and says at least 200 meals continue to be served daily.

    The protesters are demanding to have their claims for asylum processed promptly and to be transferred to Australia for processing. The Australian government shows no signs of relenting.

    The efforts of boat people to force themselves into Australia has become a major political issue in Australia. The government is clearly afraid that any kindnesses shown will just encourage more people to try illegal boat trips to Australia

    Iranians are a major share of the asylum seekers, who come from all over Asia.

    Until now, only men have been sent to Nauru, but the spokesman for the Immigration Department confirmed children and families would also be sent there in the coming months.

    Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said the asylum seekers had “raised no issues that engaged Australia’s international obligations.”

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