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Protesting asylum seekers in Sydney center threaten suicide

09-21-2010 14:06 BJT

SYDNEY, Sept. 21 (Xinhua) -- Eleven asylum seekers protesting on the roof of a Sydney detention center are threatening suicide and some have cut themselves, refugee advocates said on Tuesday.

The protesters are threatening to jump off the roof if the Immigration Department doesn't agree by 5 p.m. (local time) on Tuesday to review their cases, Refugee Action Coalition spokesman Ian Rintoul told Australian Associated Press (AAP).

"Some of the men have indicated they are prepared to jump. We' re just hoping it doesn't come to that," Rintoul said outside the center.

Nine Tamils, one Iraqi and one Afghan began their rooftop protest at the Villawood detention center in the city's west on Monday afternoon and were still refusing to come down on Tuesday.

The protest was sparked by the suicide of a fellow detainee, 36- year-old Fijian man, who was facing deportation, killed himself on Monday morning at the center.

Two of the men are believed to have collapsed from lack of food and water, while four have cut themselves, according to AAP.

It was unclear what the four men had harmed themselves with, Rintoul said, although media reports have claimed the detainees were using blades.

All of the men on the rooftop have exhausted the application process for asylum status in Australia and are facing deportation to their countries of origin.

An immigration department spokesman said negotiations were continuing with the 11 men, and they were being asked to come down from the roof and drink some fluids.

Rintoul said the situation in the center was rapidly deteriorating.

The detainee's death had "caused a whole wave of trauma and anxiety", he said.

Earlier on Tuesday, Immigration Minister Chris Brown said the asylum seekers' actions would do nothing to prevent their deportation.

"Our immigration officials determine who gets asylum after a very rigorous process," Bowen told Australian Fairfax Radio Network.

"And it's not determined by a protest, and a protest won't change an immigration outcome."

Editor:Jin Lin |Source: Xinhua

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