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Thursday, 3 January, 2002, 15:38 GMT
Vigil held for hunger strike refugee
Candlelight vigil
Supporters will hold a candlelight vigil
A candlelight vigil was held in Bedfordshire on Thursday in support of an asylum seeker who has been on hunger strike for almost a month.

Ethnic Albanian Gjevat Cerkini has been held in detention centres since his application for asylum in the UK was turned down in October.

He says he is too afraid to return to his native Kosovo and has appealed against the decision.

However while he awaits the outcome of the appeal, he is being held at Yarl's Wood Immigration and Detention Centre near Bedford.

'Weak and fragile'

Mr Cerkini, who first arrived in the UK in 1998, began his hunger strike on 5 December in protest at his asylum refusal and his incarceration at the centre.

He has been moved to the medical ward of the centre and his supporters say he is very "weak and fragile" but add that he refuses to give up until he is released from the centre.

They now plan to hold a series of candlelight vigils in an attempt to highlight his plight.

Emma Ginn, who lives near the centre and runs a local organisation concerned about Yarl's Wood, said: "Gjevat has taken such desperate measures through fear.

"Many people feel strongly about the fact that he has not been given asylum - I have been sent many messages of support to forward on to Gjevat.

Largest detention centre

"No date has been set for his appeal and in the meantime, he is languishing in a detention centre."

She added: "We are very concerned about what's going on at Yarl's Wood.

"There have been so many cases where the Home Office have not made very good decisions and asylum seekers have been sent back and have been persecuted."

Yarl's Wood is one of Europe's largest detention centres with a capacity to hold 900 men, women and children.

When it opened in November, civil liberties groups held demonstrations outside the centre.

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