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Indian detainees in US end hunger strike

Washington, April 21 (IANS) More than 40 immigrants from India at the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Texas have ended their hunger strike after a week of protesting their detention while seeking political asylum.

Immigration and customs enforcement officials at El Paso Processing Centre in Texas confirmed that all the protestors were eating their food as of Wednesday afternoon, local El Paso Times reported.

Medical staff at the centre medically cleared all of the Indian immigrants who were fasting until the last day of the protest. None of them had to be hospitalised, the daily said citing officials.

But North American Punjabi Association (NAPA) officials in California said that at least one protestor was reportedly taken to a hospital outside the ICE processing centre.

On April 8, 43 men began refusing to eat their food. As the days went by, the number of fasters started dropping, the newspaper said.

NAPA officials said the hunger strike was to protest the Indian immigrants’ “illegal” and “prolonged” detention at the centre.

Most of the protestors had entered the US last June and July through the Columbus, New Mexico port of entry, where they were detained and transferred to the centre in El Paso.

According to NAPA, the vast majority of them are from the Doaba region of Punjab, and a few from Malwa and Haryana in northern India.

El Paso Times said Dallas-based attorney John Lawit, who represents some of the men, had told it in a previous interview that the men, between the ages of 22 and 27, were active in a Sikh minority political party in India and were targeted for violent attacks.

Reports of violence to local police led to threats of arrest.

All the men had submitted documentation of relatives living in the US who are either citizens or permanent residents, according to the newspaper.

The daily cited ICE officials as saying that the Indian immigrants who went on hunger strike are still at the centre pending a court date with an immigration judge, who will decide if they can remain in the US.

NAPA executive director Satnam Singh Chahal said the association will fight for all of them to stay in the country.

The Sikh Coalition has joined hands with us and we are trying our best to get parole for all the detainees, he said in a statement.

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