ICE initiates force-feeding process for South Asian asylum seekers on hunger strike

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

December 13, 2019

ICE agents are force-hydrating at least five asylum seekers from India detained at Jena-LaSalle Detention Facility in Jena, Louisiana and force-feeding three South Asian men at the El Paso Processing Center in El Paso, Texas. The eight men have been on prolonged hunger strike, some nearing two months without eating. 

The five men in Louisiana are being subjected to forced hydration, which is carried out by a team of five to six people who hold the person down while an IV is administered. Local advocates say forced-hydration began on Nov. 18 and that the men are expected to face force-feeding by naso-gastric tube any day.

 All three men detained in El Paso, including one man who has been detained for nearly three years, are currently being force-fed via naso-gastric tubes. 

Force-feeding, a practice that has been denounced as torture by the United Nations, Physicians for Human Rights, the American Medical Association, and the World Medical Association, has been occurring in the El Paso facility throughout the year. Since January, local advocates report at least 16 people have been or are currently being subjected to force-feeding practices at that detention facility. All of them have been force-fed with tubes that are nearly twice the size of the tubes denounced internationally that were used in Guantanamo. Some of the men hunger striking were deported without a strict re-feeding protocol, a process which according to Physicians for Human Rights, can lead to death. 

Mr. Singh (whose name has been changed to protect his identity) is an Indian asylum seeker currently in the Jena-LaSalle facility who is fleeing religious persecution. In a written statement he said:

Since January 21st, 2019, I have been imprisoned inside four walls. For almost one year, I have been suffering. I have never in my entire life lived like this inside four walls nor am I accustomed to living in imprisonment. I do not know how long my asylum case will take, which is why I want to fight my case from outside this prison […] I only have one demand: I want freedom and I want to fight my case from outside. 

Over 34,000 South Asian migrants have been apprehended at U.S. borders since 2008. The number of Indian migrants apprehended at the border tripled from almost 3,000 in 2017 to nearly 9,000 in 2018. SAALT and partners tracked a pattern of abuse towards South Asian migrants in detention since 2014 that drove many to hunger strike including: inadequate or non-existent language access, denial of religious accommodations, use of solitary confinement as a form of retaliation, gross medical neglect, and high bond amounts resulting in prolonged detention.

We are extremely disturbed by the patterns of abuse against South Asian asylum seekers in detention. No one should have to go to such great lengths simply to have their cases heard and to gain their freedom. They should not be in detention in the first place and the only legitimate alternative is release, said Lakshmi Sridaran, Interim Executive Director of SAALT.

Full press release with coalition partners here.

Media contact: sophia@saalt.org

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