Nearly 700 detainees, or almost two-thirds of those held in an Australian offshore detention center on Papua New Guinea's (PNG) Manus Island, are on hunger strike to protest Canberra’s plan to permanently resettle them on the island.
The hunger strike comes in the wake of a vow by Australia’s recently appointed Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton, that Manus Island detainees would "never arrive in Australia," reports the Sydney Morning Herald.
During the past week, hundreds of detainees have abstained from food, and some from water, over the government's plan to move them to the nearby town of Lorengau. As many as 14 have sown their lips together, the Herald says.
Visiting Australian medical staff and refugee rights groups say that health facilities on Manus Island center are not equipped to handle the hunger strike.
"They don't have the capacity to handle a hunger strike of even one-tenth of that size," said Doctors for Refugees member Barri Phatarfod.