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Bangladeshi Asylum Seekers End Hunger Strike at Florida Detention Center

Imran Vittachi
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Officers with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement process detainees at the Willacy Detention Center at Raymondville, Texas, May 10, 2007.
Officers with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement process detainees at the Willacy Detention Center at Raymondville, Texas, May 10, 2007.

Six Bangladeshi men have voluntarily ended a 19-day hunger strike at a federal detention center in Florida, a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) official told BenarNews on Tuesday.

The six inmates at the Krome Service Processing Center in Miami ended their strike Monday, the same day a federal judge reportedly authorized their force-feeding.

The developments brought to a close the last of a series of hunger strikes by about 100 people from Bangladesh and other countries at ICE facilities in six states over the past two months, said Bryan D. Cox, an Atlanta-based spokesman for ICE.

But according to a New York-based NGO that assists immigrant from South Asia, the Bangladeshis were among more than 200 people from South Asia – as well as Afghanistan and parts of Africa – who went on hunger strikes after being denied asylum in the United States.

The strikers were protesting pending deportation orders as well as their indefinite detentions, Fahd Ahmed, executive director of DRUM, told BenarNews on Friday, noting that the lengths of their detentions ranged from 10 to 27 months.

‘Willing to die’

On Dec. 11, 10 Bangladeshi men were on hunger strike at Krome, according to an Associated Press report, which cited court papers filed by U.S. immigration officials that day seeking forced medical examinations for the men.

In following days, the number dropped to seven, then six.

“The remaining individuals all voluntarily” accepted meals, Cox told BenarNews.

“No one was fed via a tube,” he added, when asked whether the men were force-fed in any way.

The men refused to eat from Dec. 2, but, following its protocol, ICE officially declared the action a hunger strike on Dec. 5, after the inmates had refused nine meals in a row.

Early Monday, the men were brought into the Miami courtroom of U.S. District Judge Cecilia Altonaga in wheelchairs, AP reported.

She granted ICE and Department of Homeland Security officials permission to authorize the medical staff at Krome “to restrain and force-feed the detainees through nasal-gastric tubes” if necessary.

“They are not likely to survive without compelled feeding,” AP quoted the judge as saying.

Through an interpreter, 21-year-old detainee Abdul Awal told the court “we are willing to die.”

The strike was one of a series of hunger strikes staged by detained U.S. asylum seekers from Bangladesh and other countries at detention centers in Florida, Texas, California, Colorado, Alabama and New Mexico, Cox said.

“It is safe to say that the majority were from Bangladesh,” the ICE spokesman added.

Shamim Ahmad, a spokesman for Bangladesh’s embassy in Washington, told BenarNews last week that the Bangladeshis who took part in recent hunger strikes had entered the country without proper documentation.

Most Bangladeshi immigrants try to enter the United States by crossing the border with Mexico, Ahmad said.

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