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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
06DUBLIN562 2006-05-19 17:14:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Dublin
Cable title:  

AFGHANIS ON HUNGER STRIKE IN IRISH CHURCH

Tags:   PREL AF CVIS PHUM PREF PTER UNHCR PINS EI 
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VZCZCXRO1092
PP RUEHAG RUEHDF RUEHIK RUEHLZ
DE RUEHDL #0562/01 1391714
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 191714Z MAY 06
FM AMEMBASSY DUBLIN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6945
INFO RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES PRIORITY
RUEHUJA/AMEMBASSY ABUJA PRIORITY
RUEHBS/AMEMBASSY BRUSSELS PRIORITY 0304
RUEHBUL/AMEMBASSY KABUL PRIORITY 0020
					  UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 DUBLIN 000562 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL AF CVIS PHUM PREF PTER UNHCR PINS EI
SUBJECT: AFGHANIS ON HUNGER STRIKE IN IRISH CHURCH


Summary
---------



1. Summary. According to official sources and press
reports, 41 Afghani asylum seekers began a hunger/thirst
strike in Dublin's historic St. Patrick's Cathedral to
protest perceived pending deportations. Since the strike
began on May 12, eight of the all male group have been
admitted to a hospital, one in critical condition. The group
began drinking water after members of the Irish Justice
Department agreed to meet with them. There have been
allegations, one substantiated by a Justice Department
official, of the demonstrators having affiliations with the
former Taliban regime. Ironically, according to the Justice
Department none of the demonstrators faced immediate
deportation. The government, the Dean of the cathedral, and
the Dublin representative of the UN High Commission for
Refugees have condemned the protest. The GOI's asylum
policies have come under criticism in recent years because it
has tightened controls, but this demonstration has rallied
only a few members of opposition parties, the anti-war
movement, and NGOs. End Summary.

Afghani Hunger Strike


--------------------------





2. According to press reports from the Irish Times, the
paper of record, and the Irish Independent, on May 14 33
Afghani asylum seekers entered Dublin's historic St.
Patrick's Cathedral to begin a hunger/thirst strike. By May
16 eight more hunger strikers joined the all male group of
refugees bringing the total to 41. The newspapers reported
that the strike began after several of the Afghani
applications for refugee status were turned down by the
Office of the Refugee Appeals Commissioner (ORAC) on May 12.
According to reports, the group of men, aged between 16 and
45, have been in Ireland from one to five years and arrived
in Ireland from Afghanistan through Iran, Turkey, Italy,
Germany and France.

Critical Situation


--------------------------





3. By May 18, eight of the protesters were taken to the
hospital, including Sultan Katirchakra, the oldest member of
the group and a diabetic. Reports indicate that he is in
critical condition. The strikers reportedly refused both
liquid and solid sustenance until the afternoon of May 16
when members of the Justice Department agreed to meet with
them. Since that meeting, reportedly, the demonstrators
began consuming water.

Political Support


--------------------------





4. The Labor Party, Green Party and Sinn Fein, along with
members of the NGO community and anti-war protesters
supported the protest and urged Irish Justice Minister
Michael McDowell to take action to address this issue. In
response Minister McDowell has stated that he would not
negotiate with the refugees. There are ongoing
demonstrations at the cathedral in support of these asylum
seekers and calls for continued pressure on the government to
resolve the matter.

Former Taliban?


--------------------------





5. In interviews, spokesman for the group and fellow hunger
striker Osman Hotak said that the men fear targeting by
anti-Taliban warlords if they return to Afghanistan. In a
radio interview with Hotak, it was alleged that some of the
hunger strikers were Taliban members or have relatives in
Afghanistan who were part of the former regime. Irish
Department of Justice Principle Officer in Charge of
Repatriations Maura Hynes confirmed to emboff that Hotak is a
former Taliban member, but could not confirm associations
with the former regime of the other demonstrators. The Irish
Daily Mail (a local tabloid) charged that demonstrator Wali
Siddiqui spent time in Afghani prison and was a member of
Hezb-e Islami. Hynes was unable to confirm this allegation
or even that Siddiqui was present at the demonstration.

Dropping Numbers of Refugee Applications


--------------------------





6. Over the last few years, the GOI has made a concerted
effort to eliminate fraud, corruption and bogus claims in the
asylum seeking progress. As a result of this endeavor, since
2002, Ireland witnessed a steady decline in the number of

DUBLIN 00000562 002 OF 002


refugee applications. In 2002, ORAC received over 11,000
applications for declarations as refugees. By 2005, the
number had dropped to 4,323. As with refugee applications,
the number of deportations also dropped; there were 370
deportations in 2005 compared to 599 in 2004. In 2005 the
issue of deportations created headlines when public outcry
led to the overturning of the deportation order of a young
Nigerian man; he was allowed to stay in Ireland long enough
to finish high school.

Irish Asylum and Deportation Policy


--------------------------





7. In June 2005, in response to criticism of Irish asylum
procedures, the Justice Minister highlighted the following
principles upon which the GOI asylum strategy is based:

--Meeting international law obligations relating to the
status of refugees, such as the 1951 Geneva Convention;
--Dealing fairly but efficiently with the large number of
unfounded asylum claims (According to the Justice Minister 90
percent of the claims are unfounded.);
--Ensuring that persons found not in need of asylum
protection are returned to countries of origin as soon as
possible;
--Ensuring a system that provides protections from
persecution for legitimate applicants.

According to the Justice Minister, Ireland's recognition rate
for refugee status at first instance compares favorably to
other European countries. In the past, the GOI received
criticism mainly over the low success rates of Nigerian
applications; in 2005 41 percent of all asylum applicants
were Nigerians, and of this group, only 0.6 percent were
successful at the first instance. The Justice Minister
claimed that this percentage was higher than or equal to that
of other EU Member States. In terms of numbers, according to
the Irish Refugee Council only 97 Afghanis (approximately 2
percent of the total number of applicants) applied for
refugee status in the first half of 2005 (according to the
latest figures available).

Comment


--------------------------





8. Comment: Post views this hunger strike not as a protest
against mistreatment by the GOI or against a law enforcement
crackdown on weak asylum claims, but as ploy to gain sympathy
and a longer stay in Ireland based on the perceived
successful hunger strike by numbers of Afghan refugees in
Belgian churches in 2003. The strikers may also be trying to
capitalize on the public opinion sway demonstrated in the
2005 case of the delayed deportation of the young Nigerian
mentioned in para 6. Ironically, according to Hynes, not one
of the demonstrators is facing imminent deportation. In a
remark echoed in a public statement by the Dublin
representative of the UN High Commission for Refugees Manual
Jordao (who condemned the protest), Hynes said the strikers
"jumped the gun" and have not yet completed the asylum
seeking process. She also said that one of the strikers was
granted asylum and another has been granted leave to remain
as the father of an Irish-born child. On May 18 the Dean of
the cathedral joined in the voices of calling for an end to
the demonstration. With an ebbing of rationale for the
protest and official calls to end it, the group is losing its
leverage, but not its will. According to Katirchakra, "We
will die in this church, one by one, if necessary." End
Comment.








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