Over 100 detained refugees on hunger strike in US
More than 100 refugees held at US immigration detention facilities are on hunger strike to protest against the country’s cruel detention and deportation policies.
The ongoing hunger strikes started on Wednesday at three immigration detention facilities located in Orange and San Diego, California, as well as in Gadsden, Alabama.
Around 110 detainees, most of whom are from Bangladesh, are believed to be refusing meals. The hunger strikers also include asylum seekers from India, Pakistan, Nigeria, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Togo, and elsewhere.
The refugees are also calling for the abolition of the so-called “bed quota,” which requires immigration authorities to hold an average of 34,000 people in detention on any given day.
“ICE (Immigration Customs Enforcement) is keeping these people in indefinite detention when they should be released. They came to this country seeking safety and instead have been placed behind bars to fill a detention bed quota for years at a time,” Fahd Ahmed, director of Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM) in New York, said in a press release.
In addition to ending indefinite detention and the ICE bed quota, the latest hunger strikers are also calling for better conditions, including access to better health care, clean clothes and unspoiled food, and a less repressive disciplinary regime.
According to a 2013 report by Detention Watch Network (DWN), conditions at the James L. Hayes Detention Center in Alabama, where about 48 people are now on hunger strike, “are among the worst in the country.”
DWN is a national coalition of organizations and individuals working to expose and challenge the injustices of the US immigration detention and deportation system.
“Local quotas with private contractors and the infrastructure of detention itself have driven this market: all at a huge expense to families detained arbitrarily and to taxpayers footing the bill,” said Silky Shah, co-director of DWN.
In 2014, the New York Times revealed that at least 60,000 immigrants worked in detention centers for as little as 13 cents an hour. Others worked for free and were compensated with sodas or candy.