Australian Government Says It Will Deport Hunger-Striking Asylum Seeker

Saeed Hassanloo

The Australian government has said it will not be “emotionally blackmailed” into allowing a failed Iranian asylum seeker to remain in the country because he went on a hunger strike. Saeed Hassanloo, 25, was admitted to a hospital in Perth, Western Australia over the weekend and received some fluids and water.

He has been in a detention centre for four and a half years, claiming he would face persecution in his homeland as he converted to Christianity. Mr Hassanloo claimed to have refused food for 44 days, but Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said it was in fact 35 days.

Mr Dutton told ABC news: “The difficulty for me is that if you give yourself in to what is essentially emotional blackmail … the clear advice from my department is that I would have hundreds or thousands of people go on hunger strikes tomorrow.”

He continued: “We can’t allow the boats to start up again which they would do if we settled people that don’t have a legitimate claim.” Mr Dutton said his department had advised very strongly that Mr Hassanloo’s case had been fully examined and his claim for protection could not be substantiated.”

Dutton said that the government would now “assist” Hassanloo’s return to Iran, but the immigration service would take into account medical advice on his fitness to travel. He said: “We have provided support to many other people in the past where they have been repatriated back to Iran and other countries.”

On Good Friday campaigners had held a vigil outside the hospital in the hope the government would change its mind about removing him from the country. Refugee Rights Action Network spokeswoman, Victoria Martin-Iverson, told Fairfax Media: “He was drifting in and out of consciousness since Saturday… We understand on Monday he began to rally a little bit and he sent messages out to people thanking everyone for their prayers and their support.”

Australia had 17,698 asylum seekers as of March 2013, and the country maintains a tough stance on deporting those who fail in their applications.