More Than 100 Detained Asylum Seekers are Hunger-Striking on Thanksgiving
They request en end to their indefinite detention.
A letter written by one of the detainees.
While families around the United States gather around their tables to overindulge on turkey and pie, 110 detained asylum seekers at three ICE centers in California and Alabama will be hunger-striking to protest their two-year-long detainment.
The detainees, many of whom come from Bangladesh, are escaping persecution and violence in their home countries and fear being forcibly returned home. Many of them are targeted for their affiliations with the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), a political opponent to the current government. The BNP is classified by the Department of Homeland Security as a Tier III terrorist organization, a label that immigrant advocacy groups adamantly reject.
“ICE is keeping these people in indefinite detention when they should be released,” said Fahd Ahmed, director of Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM) in New York, in a press statement. “They came to this country seeking safety and instead have been placed behind bars to fill a detention bed quota for years at a time.”
The hunger strikers, who are jailed at the Theo Lacey, Otay, and Etowah Detention Centers, released an ambitious list of demands, including an end to all detentions and deportations, and improved conditions for detainees. Mahbubur, a detainee at the Etowah Detention Center in Alabama, wrote a letter describing their grim circumstances:
“If they are deported to Bangladesh the present government will persecute them accusing them of creating unrest or vandalism by bringing false charges against them. Many of us even attempted to commit suicide for fearing of the government retribution if deported. We appeal to the Department of Homeland Security and the government of the United Stated of America to consider our case on humanitarian ground and free us from this miserable detention. We want to live a honorable life and we would like to inform our families back home that we are in good condition in America.”
Earlier this month, more than a dozen advocacy groups sent the State Department a letter condemning the “disproportionately high” number of Bangladeshi asylum seekers who are indefinitely detained at centers around the country.