The United Nations Human Rights Commission has offered to act as an intermediary to resolve the hunger strike 40 Afghans embarked on in a Dublin cathedral over the state’s refusal to grant them asylum, it emerged tonight.
Manuel Jordao, UNHCR representative in Ireland, endorsed the Irish Government’s decision to assess the men’s applications individually.
But he said: “I think that they might have very good reasons to believe that they should not be returned to Afghanistan. I believe that they are choosing the wrong way to plead their case.
“I think that they should go back to the trust they had once deposited in those that have been assisting them to present their claim to asylum institutions here in Ireland.”
Thirty-three Afghan men began refusing food and water on Sunday afternoon at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin in a bid to secure political asylum. They were joined by eight others on Monday and all claim they will be tortured and persecuted if they are returned to Afghanistan.
It is understood officials from the Department of Justice are keeping in touch with Church of Ireland clergy at Christchurch and that they are willing to meet the men in the department’s offices or the men’s homes.
Medical experts have warned the men’s condition will deteriorate rapidly as they enter a fourth and fifth day with water.
Several required medical attention during the first 72 hours. Two teenage boys were treated in the nearby St James’ Hospital today suffering from dehydration and a third was later brought in.
Rory Hearne, a member of the People Against Profit Alliance which is supporting the men’s fight to stay in Ireland, said fears were growing for their welfare.
“They are getting weaker, considerably weaker, but they are still resolute,” he said.
“The Government has been absolutely disgraceful in its response. Their claims that the asylum system would fall apart if they are granted the right to stay are just not true.”
Mr Hearne said supporters would continue to keep vigils at the cathedral twice a day while the hunger strike goes on.
Among the men was a 45-year-old blind diabetic who worked as an official in the Foreign Ministry under the Taliban regime.
It is understood most of the men, aged between 16 and 45, agreed to start taking water following a meeting with officials from the Department of Justice along with with two canons from the cathedral yesterday, but afterwards the men insisted they would not give up.
Eight of the group were hospitalised yesterday and one man who was been kept in was released after an overnight stay.