Taoiseach: Govt will not give in to hunger-strikers

The Taoiseach has said the Government will not give in to threats from Afghan asylum seekers.

The Taoiseach has said the Government will not give in to threats from Afghan asylum seekers.

Most of the 41 hunger strikers at St Patrick's Cathedral have agreed to drink water after moves began to arrange talks with officials from the Department of Justice.

Another man has been taken to hospital this evening, but three of the six others being treated earlier have returned to the cathedral.

Speaking in the Dáil, Bertie Ahern warned that conceding to the protestors is unthinkable.

“There are one hundred nationalities in the asylum process at present in this country and to concede to any demands from protestors would have major negative consequences for the asylum system that we've built up this past decade,” he said.

“There's no doubt that concessions would lead to similar protests and a major inflow of additional applicants in the hope they would benefit from similar actions.”

The decision by the Afghan asylum seekers to drink water has been welcomed by the Justice Minister.

But Michael McDowell says his stance on their demand for political asylum has not changed.

The Minister says their applications will be dealt with individually and not as a group.

He says the system of processing claims for refugee status won't change under duress:

“My position hasn't changed," he said today.

“Everybody gets courteously treated and fairly treated in the process and no-one gets any advantage from the gestures of the kind we've seen in the last while.”

“I'm not force-feeding anybody but our system won't change under duress and if you looked at what happened in Belgium, you'll see that I'm taking the right course.”

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