Afghans in Dublin suicide drama
20. May 2006, 00:59

BBC News - Several Afghan asylum seekers on hunger strike in a Dublin cathedral have vowed to kill themselves if they are moved. The men are said to have tied ropes around their necks and have threatened to jump from a high balcony.

Forty-one men moved into the organ loft at St Patrick's Cathedral on the sixth day of a campaign to stay in Ireland.

They have vowed to starve themselves to death unless they can stay in Ireland, claiming they fear being tortured in their homeland.

Police and negotiators have been trying to end the stand-off throughout the day.

"I understand that there are ropes tied around their necks in a dramatic fashion. I also understand that they have knives or they certainly claim to have knives," a Church of Ireland official told the AFP news agency.

No negotiation

Earlier, about 40 gardai blocked access to the cathedral from 0700 BST and up to 15 officers entered the building later.

One young person was taken from the cathedral to hospital in an ambulance.

Rosanna Flynn, of campaign group Residents Against Racism, claimed some of the children inside the cathedral had attempted suicide during Thursday night.

It is believed the authorities may seek a court order to have those under the age of 18 removed from the cathedral.

The Irish government is refusing to negotiate on the men's asylum claims.

The Afghans have said they will scrap their protest if an international body reviews their applications.

Supporters of the men have hung a banner on railings outside the cathedral, stating: "No-one is illegal."

The men began their protest on Sunday afternoon.

Severe dehydration

A number of the men were hospitalised earlier this week with one reported to be critically ill, suffering from severe dehydration.

The men, who were initially also on a thirst strike, agreed to drink some water after a meeting with government officials was granted.

Irish Justice Minister Michael McDowell urged the men to stop the protest but said he would not negotiate with them.

He said the men had not yet exhausted the asylum appeals process.

The Afghans say they are from a mixture of ethnic and political backgrounds and have denied that any of them were Taleban members.

Irish church leaders have urged the men to give up their hunger strike.

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