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Concern as asylum seekers continue hunger strike

CONCERN is growing for the health of a small group of asylum seekers who have been on hunger strike for up to 43 days in protest at the Government's immigration policy, writes Jason Bennetto.

Three of the demonstrators - who are being held in detention camps, prisons and hospitals - have refused food since 8 March. Increasing numbers of detainees have needed medical treatment, with 36 people being sent to hospital since last month.

The men are protesting at the current system whereby people seeking asylum can spend more than a year incarcerated while their applications are considered. The record numbers being locked up - now more than 700 - led last month to an unprecedented wave of demonstrations with up to 250 immigrants in more than 10 institutions joining hunger strikes. However, the numbers have dwindled, with the total still refusing food yesterday down to 15 at five camps and prisons. One of the longest hunger strikers has been taken to Epsom hospital in Surrey, after his condition deteriorated. The other two who have gone into the second month of protest are at Winchester and Canterbury prisons.