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Refugees: Centacare director says Ruddock's view "ignorant"

The situation of the asylum seekers has been changing as a result of the protests taking place at the Woomera Detention Centre. The Australian media are all carrying stories on the ongoing protest and reactions to it. The Australian newspaper reports: "It is alleged children in Woomera detention centre have sewn their lips together, or had them sewn, as part of a mass hunger strike; that one boy drank detergent; another eight drank shampoo and an 18-year-old slashed his chest."

The article is reporting that the "Federal Government may split asylum-seekers' families to protect the children, following the reported involvement of detained children in life-threatening behaviour."

Human rights commissioner Sev Ozdowski expressed "deep concern" yesterday for children at Woomera "witnessing horrific incidents in detention such as mouth-sewing and hunger strikes". He also was alarmed by reports of children harming themselves.

Dr Ozdowski has asked commission staff to visit Woomera urgently. He will incorporate their findings into his National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention report.

Mr Ruddock said the Government would not allow detainees to die from hunger and repeated that the lip-stitching protest would not affect the processing or outcome of asylum applications.

He believed the protest stemmed from Afghan asylum-seekers' frustration over the Government's view that Afghanistan offered a friendlier political landscape now the Taliban had been overthrown.

"You have a new Government which is pledged to uphold the rule of law, which recognises that women do have particular rights and entitlements, and that is a marked change in the form of government that was there before under the Taliban," Mr Ruddock said.

Centacare family services director Dale West described this view as "ignorant". "It completely misunderstands that there's been persecution of some groups over hundreds of years, not just the last five minutes," he said.

"Mr Ruddock is in a corner. He's completely lost the direction of what this is about. He has no exit plan and the current strategy isn't working."

Mr West said self-harm was a common cry for help and that Mr Ruddock had insensitively belittled and diminished the plight of asylum-seekers.

Mr West called for the immediate release of all children.

The Australian: Refugee families to be split