With some of the hundreds of Afghans and Iraqis detained on the remote Pacific Island of Nauru staging a hunger strike, the United Nations refugee agency today appealed for a dignified response to "what is becoming a human tragedy."
There are 357 refugees, including 90 children, on Nauru. Some have been held there for more than two years.
While the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) supports returning asylum-seekers who do not qualify for refugee status to their home country, the agency stressed the need to make exceptions given the prevailing security conditions.
"Until such time as conditions improve in the areas of origin of these persons, UNHCR appeals to all concerned authorities to treat them with humanity and redouble efforts to find a dignified and proper solution which does not involve continued, prolonged detention in harsh conditions, including of children," agency spokesman Ron Redmond told reporters in Geneva.
The strike was "symptomatic of a general degree of despair that must be addressed with a view to responding humanely to what is becoming a human tragedy," he added.
Hundreds of refugees have been brought to Nauru after Australia refused to allow them to disembark on its territory.