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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 January, 2004, 08:16 GMT
Nauru asylum protest suspended
Unidentified asylum seeker on Nauru
Stitches from the protesters' lips are being removed
Asylum-seekers on the Pacific island of Nauru have reportedly suspended a nearly month-long hunger strike.

The 33 protesters broke their fast after they were told Australia would review some of their cases, according to refugee advocates.

The asylum seekers started the strike on 10 December after Australia refused to give them refugee status.

Nauru had earlier accused Australia of neglecting the protesters, who are predominantly from Afghanistan.

Howard Glenn of refugee rights group A Just Australia said the protesters had suspended their protest while they await the outcome of the government review.

"The language the hunger strikers are using is that they have suspended it for a limited number of weeks to allow the government to make good on its commitments to reprocess based on new country information," he said.

The refugees were also encouraged by the promise of an Australian medical team, said another refugee advocate, Geoff Smith.

"Various refugee advocates were assuring them that things are looking brighter and I think the fact that the medical team is going in has tipped the balance," Mr Smith said.

Mouths sewn up

Some of the refugees were reported to be seriously ill.

"Right now our doctors are removing the stitches from those who had their mouths sewn up," an official from the International Organisation for Migration Dennis Nihill said.

"The cooks have got a soup on the boil and they should be eating soup within the hour."

Nearly 300 people, mostly from Afghanistan, are being held on Nauru while their claims for asylum are processed under a plan to keep unwanted boat people out of mainland Australia.

Nauru had agreed to have them there in return for Australian aid.

Doctors at the island's only hospital have said the hunger strikers were stretching resources, although Australia had disputed this.

The would-be refugees say they fear they will be persecuted or killed if they return to Afghanistan.

There are also Iraqis, Iranians, Palestinians and Pakistanis among the asylum seekers.

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24 Dec 03  |  Asia-Pacific
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24 Dec 03  |  Asia-Pacific
Australia shifts on Nauru protest
19 Dec 03  |  Asia-Pacific
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20 Jun 03  |  Asia-Pacific
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17 Jul 03  |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: Nauru
31 Jan 03  |  Country profiles
Timeline: Nauru
18 Feb 03  |  Asia-Pacific

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