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Hunger Strike by asylum seeker, near death, in Perth - update 7 April 2015

Saeed Hassanloo has ended his hunger strike

comment form Refugee Action Coalition Sydney 7 April

The Refugee Action Coalition has welcomed the news that Iranian hunger striker, Saeed Hansonloo, has ended his hunger strike.
Now the Minister must release Saeed, his brother and the 40-odd other Iranians being held in indefinite detention.
Despite the Minister’s public comments, Saeed’s case has not been finalized. The Department initiated a “International Treaty Obligations Assessment” process in January this year.
Hundreds of others in a similar situation are living in the community on bridging visas.
“The Minister has to explain why Saeed and his brother were not released on bridging visas,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.
“Peter Dutton has assiduously avoided explaining why he didn’t do the obvious. Saeed and his brother were living in the community on bridging visas until 2012.
“Twice this year, Iranian asylum seekers have come close to dying in detention. The Minister is completely blinkered by domestic politics. Unless Peter Dutton releases Saeed and the others, it is only a matter of time before this happens again. Some of the Iranians in Darwin, in a similar situation to Saeed, have now been re-detained for nine months. The government’s policy is senseless.”

There is a man in a Perth hospital, very close to death as a result of a hunger strike. I am old enough to clearly remember 1981 and the death of Bobby Sands after 66 days on a hunger strike. Halfway across the world, here in Australia, his decline and death was covered in every news bulletin. Whether we supported his cause or not, we all followed his story – Bobby Sands was a household name and we FELT something in response to his actions.
Yet right here, now, today an Iranian man is close to death, protesting his imminent return to Iran, a country he fled in 2009. He clearly believes that death here is better than being returned to Iran. Yet this story is not making news. I googled it today and could find it covered in only three media outlets: ABC News Online, The Guardian and Perth Now. Nothing mainstream. We don’t even know this man’s name, unlike Bobby Sands.
Well, his name is Saeed Hassanloo and he is about 27 years old. One of the reasons why we know so little is that the hospital where is now located, Royal Perth Hospital, is unable to provide any information on his condition unless it is approved by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (formerly the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, and the name change speaks volumes about the thinking of our government) and the Department is not approving any media releases.
The story that the radio and TV stations and the print and online newspapers should be covering therefore, is the story of man who is dying in a hospital, from a hunger strike, in the middle of beautiful, affluent, sunny Perth and the public is not allowed to know anything about him because the federal government is censoring our access to information. That is a real story and that is what the media should be focussing on. Perhaps they don’t because they know that, by and large, Australians are so apathetic that they just don’t care.
We have two major political parties who try to outbid each other at election time to see who can provide the toughest, least sympathetic approach to the issue of refugees and they do this because they sense this is what the Australian public wants them to do. I am becoming increasingly disillusioned with all that we stand for as Australians. We are such a self-congratulatory people, always talking about behaviours that we consider to be un-Australian. We have become so self-obsessed, so focussed on what is happening in our own households and our own streets that we don’t even know what is happening in a major hospital in the centre of our city. Or if we do know, we don’t care. Are we so lacking in generosity of spirit that we no longer care about the plight of others?

Now is the time to let our government and our media know that we do care and we do want to know what is happening – to Saeed Hassanloo specifically and about how Australia treats refugees generally. There isn’t much time left. This man has already not eaten for 40 days and has not taken water for the past few days – he is close to death. I want to be part of a country – again – that cares about what happens to people on our shores.

provided by Andrew Walls, from a friend in Perth

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