Hunger striker close to death, Greens call for Federal Government to 'show compassion'

Hunger striker close to death, Greens call for Federal Government to 'show compassion'

Hunger striker close to death, Greens call for Federal Government to 'show compassion'

Updated 1 April 2015, 14:30 AEDT

The Greens call on the Federal Government to "show compassion" towards an Iranian asylum seeker believed to be near death from a hunger strike in a Perth hospital.

The Greens have called on the Federal Government to "show compassion" towards an Iranian asylum seeker believed to be near death from a hunger strike in a Western Australian hospital.

The ABC yesterday revealed Saeed Hassanloo had been conducting a hunger strike for 38 days, and doctors fear he will not survive if he does not eat soon.

He is currently being treated at Royal Perth Hospital after being transferred from Yongah Hill Immigration Detention Centre on March 10.

Mr Hassanloo has been fighting for a visa since he fled Iran in 2009, and has been held in detention for the past four-and-a-half years.

The ABC has been told Mr Hassanloo could have just 24 hours to live.

Greens immigration spokeswoman Sarah Hanson-Young said Federal Immigration Minister Peter Dutton needed to act immediately.

"This is an urgent call to the Government to put the politics aside for once and think of the life of this young man, and offer compassion and support to him," Senator Hanson-Young said.

"You've got to wonder what's happened to our country when a person prefers to starve themselves to death rather than spend any more time in immigration detention, or indeed fearful of being deported back to their homeland."

Senator Hanson-Young said the Minister and his department could not sit idly by as Mr Hassanloo's condition deteriorated.

"It's really important for the Government to look at what it is that they can do for this man," she said.

"He clearly is afraid of being sent back home, he's desperate, he's clearly very unwell, and there would be many options available to the Minister to show some heart and compassion if he was willing to do so.

"I hope that this man can recover and that he can be shown compassion and support but if he was to die after being treated like this in detention, after being detained for such a long period of time, given no ounce of hope, it really does show the Government is willing to do whatever it takes in terms of its harsh and cruel policy to refugees."

'They would let a man die rather than reconsider': advocate

It is understood psychiatric assessments have deemed Mr Hassanloo sound of mind, and therefore able to decide whether or not he wishes to eat.

That assessment is significant because people cannot be force-fed while they are being treated in hospital, unless they are being treated under the Mental Health Act or under the care of a guardian.

A spokesman for the Department of Immigration confirmed an Iranian adult male from Yongah Hill Immigration Detention Centre was being cared for in hospital, however he would not be drawn on specific details of the case.

In a statement, the spokesman said the department was working very closely with medical staff to ensure the man was receiving appropriate care.

"The Government has made it very clear that when a person has exhausted all avenues to remain in Australia, they are expected to depart Australia," the spokesman said.

The Refugee Rights Action Network's Victoria Martin has told 720 ABC Perth she visits Yongah Hill detention centre on a regular basis, and talked to Mr Hassanloo before he was transferred to hospital.

"He believes firmly and fundamentally that if he goes back to Iran he will be tortured and potentially killed," Ms Martin said.

"I think the very fact he's prepared to put his life and health at risk essentially proves his refugee claim.

"Several of Saeed's very close friends — people who were with him when he was in Villawood, Darwin and Curtin detention centre and then here at Yongah — spoke to me yesterday of their distress at him being removed from his facility in the state he was in.

"They're very concerned for him and of course they're very concerned what it says about the Department of Immigration — that they would let a man die rather than reconsider his options for staying in Australia."