Hunger strike sparks alarm

Written By miftah nugraha on Senin, 01 Juli 2013 | 19.55

The immigration detention centre at Pontville.

REFUGEE ADVOCATES have slammed the Federal Government's policy of detaining unaccompanied teenage boys at Pontville after it was revealed a 16-year-old Afghani detainee is on a hunger strike.

The Immigration Department has told the Mercury a detainee is being closely monitored at the Pontville centre after refusing to eat for an unconfirmed period of time.

"Food and water are available to this detainee at any time," a spokeswoman said.

Australian Greens Leader and Tasmanian senator Christine Milne says it is cruel to hold children behind a wire fence indefinitely.

"It is more important than ever that we get these kids out detention immediately," Senator Milne said.

"I welcome news that (new Federal Immigration Minister) Tony Burke said he will review children in detention.

"They should never have been there in the first place and I hope these sympathetic signals from the new Immigration Minister will lead to action."

Tasmanian Asylum Seeker Support spokeswoman Emily Conolan said the boy had been a participant in the Pontville visitor's program and she had been in touch with his Hobart-based "buddy", who was planning to visit him.

A counsellor is also on site at the centre discussing ways in which the boy can get help without harming himself.

It is understood the teen has become very depressed after spending two months in detention on Christmas Island and another seven months at Pontville.

"The Federal Government's own recommendations show three months is the maximum tolerable time for adult refugees to be detained," Ms Conolan said.

"Clearly seven months is far too long for anyone, let alone a teenager."

Police were called to the centre late last month after a row broke out between Afghani and Vietnamese teens being held there.

Six people were taken to hospital but no charges have been laid and no further action taken by police.

Comment has been sought from Mr Burke's office.

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