A view of the Immigration Detention Center on Christmas Island, Australia (File photo)
About 100 asylum-seekers detained in the Australian territory of Christmas Island have launched a hunger strike in response to a decision by authorities to send them to a remote island in the South Pacific.
The detainees went on hunger strike on Sunday after local authorities said that they would be transferred to the Republic of Nauru, an island country in the South Pacific’s Micronesia, under a tough new refugee policy.
“They were informed yesterday of the decision to transfer them to Nauru, and obviously it’s pretty difficult news to take,” said an immigration department spokesman.
The detainees will be the first group to be transferred to the remote Pacific island to await the process of their refugee claims.
The decision follows the adoption in parliament of a new piece of legislation to deter a record flow of people into the Australian territory.
Under the new law, asylum-seekers who arrive in Christmas Island by boat will be sent to either Nauru or Manus Island in Papua New Guinea for indefinite periods, and their visas will be assessed.
According to a parliamentary panel, the move is aimed at encouraging people to seek asylum through official channels and to keep refugees from risking their lives at sea.
Amnesty International has criticized the plan as a major setback to Australia’s refugee policy.
Hunger strikes have also been reported at facilities in the northern city of Darwin, where a group of unaccompanied minors are expected to be transferred.
Asylum-seekers often target Christmas Island to get into Australia.