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NO WATER; Now refugees refuse drink.

Byline: by NICK SOMMERLAD

ASYLUM seekers on hunger strike over the threat to return them to Zimbabwe are now refusing fluids as well.

At least 44 immigrants in detention centres have not eaten for seven days in protest at a Home Office threat to deport them.

They say they face persecution and torture from Robert Mugabe's henchmen if they go back home.

Noble Sibanda, of the United Network of Detained Zimbabweans, said: "As of 3pm today, we have moved on to stage two which is to refuse fluids. Stage three will be to sew up their mouths.

"More than 100 people in detention have not eaten since last Wednesday. Some of them, especially the women, are weak.

"They will carry on as long as they have to, until they die if necessary. Let's hope they stay strong." The numbers of Zimbabweans on hunger strike is disputed. The Home Office puts it at 44. But Mr Sibanda, 29, says it is 166 people.

Lawyers are planning a mass court challenge to free the detainees.

Among those calling on the government to halt the deportations is the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Dr Rowan Williams said it would be "deeply immoral" to send failed asylum seekers back to a country where they could face torture.

And Lord Kinnock said it would be better to let "a couple of dozen" unjustified claimants remain than send back people at risk.

But Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said each case was considered with "very great care".

Tony Blair now faces the prospect of hosting the G8 summit focusing on the plight of Africa with dozens of Zimbabweans on hunger strike.

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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jun 29, 2005
Words:276
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