A series of reports in The Guardian and other outlets describe a grim scene at an Australian immigration detention center, as detainees seeking asylum have protested their treatment by reportedly refusing food, sewing their lips together, swallowing razor blades, and drinking detergent.
The crisis is taking place at Australia’s Manus Island facility for asylum seekers, which is actually located in Papua New Guinea. Some individuals who have traveled by boat to Australia seeking asylum—the BBC says most are from Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Iraq, and Iran—are sent to the facility. Under Australian law, those who qualify as refugees will be resettled in Papua New Guinea or Cambodia, not in Australia. Manus Island’s detainees are upset by the length of time they have been held in official limbo—some have allegedly been in detention for 450 days—and because they believe they will be subject to violent attacks by Papua New Guinea residents if they are resettled locally.
Detainees began hunger strikes on Jan. 13, and more severe acts of self-harm followed. A number of “ringleaders” in the protests have reportedly been arrested and moved to a local jail, and the Guardian says individuals have also been arrested for using communication devices—which are, according to the Australian government, not prohibited at the facility. The hunger strikes continue.