Aussie asylum seekers sew lips to protest detention

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen confirmed that 10 out of 160 people engaged in a peaceful protest have sewn their lips, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

Bowen warned the protesters their actions would be futile. He said while their actions were distressing, it would not change the outcome of their refugee applications.

"Applications are dealt with on their merit. They cannot and will not be changed by any protests," he said.

Bowen said the detainees who had sewn their lips were taking water and sugar, and that the government would not allow any fatalities. "We have the power to intervene if necessary," he said.

The detainees -- believed to be Iraqis, Iranian Kurds, Palestinians and Algerians -- declared a hunger strike immediately after they heard about the death of an Iraqi detainee, Ahmad al-Akabi, in Sydney's Villawood detention centre Tuesday.

According to the report, about 22 detainees at the Villawood centre started eating again Thursday, two days after they went on a hunger strike following al-Akabi's suicide.

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