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Afghans on Hunger Strike in St. Patrick’s Cathedral
"Life in Ireland or Death?" Please Tell Us Minister.
A group of twenty to thirty refugees (UPDATE: numbers are now known to be 41) occupied St. Patricks Cathedral after today’s Cathedral Service. At least three minors are believed to be among the group of men. The group are seeking refugee status in Ireland and decided to hungerstrike after some of their applications were turned down last Friday by the Office of the Refugee Appeals Commissioner. Geen Party TD, Ciarán Cuffe has met some of the men and believes them to be genuine.
According to Amnesty International’s 2005 Country Report armed groups in Afghanistan continue to commit abuses against civilians, aid workers, election officials and potential voters. Abduction and rape are reportedly common. The legal system lacks basic provisions for fair trials and executions have been reported. AmnestyUSA reports that some of this violence (including torture) is perpetrated by the US troops currently occupying the war-torn country.
The asylum seekers issued a statement to explain the reason for their drastic decision to go on hunger strike in St. Patricks Cathedral, it states very starkly and clearly the reason why they believe they should be allowed to stay:
We have been in Ireland for years and most of us have been suffering from mental and physical problems besides the mental and physical problems we had in Afghanistan. We want an answer from the Irish Government, Is it life in Ireland or death?
Latest Updates: more join, water refused, show support | church authorities appeal, hungerstrike continues | McDowell responds, Catholic Church quiet | Request quiet night, solidarity is welcomed | Day 3 vigil announced solidarity picket photos|
Green Party Justice Spokesperson Ciarán Cuffe TD stated:
“These men are desperate. They have fled a war-torn country and are concerned that their lives will be in danger if they return. Minister McDowell should at least meet with the group and listen to their concerns. I spoke with the group’s representatives Osman Hotak and Sultan Kabirchakara and I believe that their cases are genuine. They are concerned that Office of the Refugee Appeals Commissioner is not taking sufficient account of the dreadful conditions in their home country.
There has been a steady stream of supporters and well-wishers bringing blankets to the hunger strikers. Earlier in the day men claiming to be Garda "special branch" as well as regular uniformed Gardai are reported to have sought personal information from the well wishers and recorded car license plate numbers. However, later on this intrusive presence seems to have vanished, and reporters within the Cathedral say that if you're interested in showing some practical solidarity then your presence will be welcomed.