Five Indian asylum seekers on hunger strike for 90 days in Louisiana

Three asylum seekers kept in isolation for not drinking Boost.

Five Indian asylum seekers have been on a hunger strike for 90 days at La Salle detention center in Jena, Louisiana. Each of the men have formal sponsors in the US who have committed to housing and supporting them while they fight their asylum case.

The men, four Hindus and one Sikh, coming from different parts of India have varied reasons for seeking asylum in the United States. The American Bazaar has learnt that they are seeking asylum for a variety of reasons, and their legal situations are varied.

What remains alarming is that after 90 days of hunger strike, all five are now undergoing a tortuous procedure of forced-hydration and force-feeding at the detention facility.

ALSO READ: By the numbers: every eighth person of Indian origin in US is an illegal immigrant (November 25, 2014)

Freedom for Immigrants volunteer Michelle Graffeo has been regularly visiting the men in the facility. After a meeting with two of the hunger strikers Sunday she said, “It was reported to me that three of the five men are now being held in isolation as punishment for not drinking Boost.”

“This means that they are alone for 24 hours a day and all five men are wheelchair bound and unable to get out of bed without assistance,” Graffeo said.

ALSO READ: Indian man seeking asylum in US force fed at ICE detention facility in Texas (August 20, 2019)

“This is unacceptable and just one more way that they are torturing these men. Every day that they remain in captivity is just one day closer to death for these men,” she said. “Today is day 88 of hunger strike and as of right now these men have missed 272 meals.”

“I have been visiting with them for the past three months and have watched them slowly disappear as the days carry on,” Graffeo said. “ICE is prepared to let them die, I however am not.”

According to medical professionals, 75 days without adequate nutrition is when vital organs begin to fail.

Freedom for Immigrants (FFI) has filed complaints with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) on behalf of the five men, demanding DHS address the systemic civil rights violations the men have faced in ICE custody.

ALSO READ: Mexico deports 311 Indians, who were trying to enter US illegally (October 19, 2019)

Freedom for Immigrants alongside Detention Watch Network (DWN), South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), local advocates, and medical professionals in the Louisiana area have warned that the men are on the brink of death and called for their immediate release.

According to statistics in the past one decade there has been a 996 percent increase in the number of Indians seeking asylum abroad.

An “asylum seeker” is defined as an individual who is being persecuted on grounds of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership of a particular social group.

Many asylum seekers from South Asia in the past have also resorted to hunger strike to protest against the inhumane conditions they are held in at detention facilities.

According to civil rights organization SAALT, the pattern of abuse towards South Asians in detention facilities include inadequate language access, medical neglect, solitary confinement as well as high bond amounts.

More than 40 asylum seekers from Punjab go on hunger strike at detention center in Texas (April 17, 2014)

Asylum seekers in the US rise to the highest level in 20 years (December 19, 2013)

2,318% – the increase in asylum seekers from India to the US in last 3 years (September 10, 2013)

US court denies asylum petition by Indian who claimed fears of assassination by Bhindranwale Tiger Force (February 16, 2016)

Arrested in El Paso with no visas, 2 Punjabi men claim they are gay, get asylum in the US (January 6, 2014)

‘Inhumane’ treatment meted out to immigrant detainees, including 52 Indians, held in Oregon federal prison (June 23, 2018)

More than 100 illegal immigrants from India, Bangladesh, Pakistan go on hunger strike in US (November 27, 2015)

Drastic increase in August in number of children entering the US illegally (September 21, 2015)

Satyagraha in US: 9 Sikh men released from Florida detention center after hunger strike (August 12, 2015)

Undocumented Indian immigrant detained in Yuba City; ordered for deportation in three months (August 11, 2017)

ICE Newark arrests undocumented Indian immigrant released from NJ jail (June 21, 2017)

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