Churches urge Howard to step in on hunger strike

Church leaders in England and Wales called on the Home Secretary, Michael Howard, to intervene in the asylum-seekers' hunger strike at Rochester Prison to avert "an immediate tragedy". The Conference of Religious in England and Wales condemned the situation involving asylum seekers as "inhumane".

The conference president, Sister Teresa Clements, wrote: "We wish to register our sadness and incomprehension that the inhumane situation at Rochester prison is being allowed to continue, thereby threatening the lives of 16 asylum-seekers ... We also ask you to ... reduce the time it takes to process the claims for asylum in this country because of the suffering involved."

The Bishop of Rochester offered to be a go-between to save the lives of the men taking part in the three-week hunger strike, called in protest at their being held in a prison despite not being convicted of crimes. Six men were still refusing food and fluids last night and were being treated in the prison's health centre. A further nine remained on the jail's D-wing refusing food.

Meanwhile, lawyers for one prisoner, the Nigerian Ejike Emenike, were given extra time by the High Court to prove he was in genuine fear of prosecution at home.

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