Aussie Asylum Seekers Sew Lips Together
It 'won't help their cases,' says minister
By Mary Papenfuss,  Newser User
Posted Nov 22, 2010 3:04 AM CST
Updated Nov 22, 2010 3:24 AM CST
The action shows a system 'in crisis,' says one politician.   (?Hector Sevillano)
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(Newser) – Ten asylum seekers in Australia have sewn their lips together to protest an excruciatingly long process to obtain refugee status. The men are refusing medical treatment, but are able to drink sugared water. Officials have warned that the action won't help their cases. "This is distressing for me and most of the Australian people," said Immigration Minister Chris Bowen. But he warned that "any protest designed to change the result of refugee applications will not work. In Australia, if you are a genuine refugee you'll be accepted. If your application is not recognized as being genuine, you'll be rejected."

He said the government would intervene in the protest to prevent fatalities. The men are being held on Christmas Island, an Australian territory in the Indian Ocean, where a number of people seeking refugee status have been detained more than a year, reports AP. Last week an Iraqi asylum seeker in a Sydney detention center committed suicide. Another politician called the "latest disturbing event a further symptom of an immigration detention system in crisis."