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Hunger strike is a problematic political tool. But it should not tie to death.


[30. June 2006] Since June 16, an asylum seeker who claims to come from North Africa has been hungry in Oslo prison. Ahmed Suleyman Wawi, self-proclaimed Palestinian, hunger striker too. The hunger strikers are treated as criminals, but are unreturnable people with rejected asylum applications and identity that the police have called into question. They share the situation and instruments with an unknown number of people in Norway.

The discussion about hunger strikes has lately been high on the Norwegian political agenda. The 70 Afghans who settled at the Oslo Cathedral have been highlighted by cultural celebrities, discussed in all of the country's media and become a workhorse for the government. When the Afghans ended the strike, the immigration authorities acknowledged the next day with the decision to force two Afghans out of the country. It is not possible to strike to stay in Norway.

Earlier this week, eight Somalis ended Lier's hunger strike. They have been denied their applications for residence, but cannot be sent home to a war-ravaged Somalia. In such cases, Norway has established Europe's first "waiting reception". In Lier, the deported asylum seekers get food and roof over their heads, but not a penny for neither a bus ticket nor soda. Here, so-called return motivational work is run, information work on why the residents themselves should choose to go back where they come from.

There is disturbing silence around the conditions. When Ny Tid contacted the reception and the UDI to visit the hunger-striking Somalis, our journalist first received a clear message that they would not talk to us. It was probably a danger that we should motivate them.

Two years ago, 1500 Palestinian prisoners hunger strike in Israeli prisons in protest of the conditions under which they were sentenced. At that time, the prison authorities began grilling steaks near the cells of the hunger strikes, to increase the appetites of the activists, and the Israeli Minister of Internal Security brutally declared that for his part, the prisoners could easily strike the dead from it.

Now inclusion minister Bjarne Håkon Hanssen should prove better, by initiating a real discussion about Norwegian asylum policy. If not, we risk silencing the hunger strikers.

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