Employing what one critic described as "Guantanamo Bay style" abuse, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials are reportedly using plastic nasal tubes to force-feed at least six detained migrants who have been on a prolonged hunger strike to protest conditions at an El Paso, Texas prison.
As the Associated Press reported on Thursday, detained migrants and an attorney representing the hunger strikers said "nearly 30 detainees from India and Cuba have been refusing to eat, and some are now so weak they cannot stand up or talk."
According to the AP, the detainees said they began refusing food to "protest verbal abuse and threats of deportation from guards. They are also upset about lengthy lock ups while awaiting legal proceeding."
The force-feeding began during the second week of January after "a federal judge authorized force-feeding of some El Paso detainees," the AP reported.
Amrit Singh, whose two nephews from the Indian state of Punjab have been hunger striking for around a month, told the AP that those being force-fed "are having persistent nose bleeds, and are vomiting several times a day."
Rights groups and critics immediately reacted with alarm to the AP's report, with many pointing out that both the United Nations and the World Medical Association have condemned force-feeding as torture.
"Force feeding violates basic medical ethics and our core values," declared Physicians for Human Rights, which has led the medical community's protests against the force-feeding of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay.
Force feeding violates basic medical ethics and our core values. The World Medical Association (@medwma) states that "feeding accompanied by threats, coercion, force or use of physical restraints is a form of inhuman and degrading treatment." #HungerStrike https://t.co/hMz3EQnuwZ
— Physicians for Human Rights (@P4HR) January 31, 2019
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Bend the Arc, a Jewish American advocacy group, described ICE's actions as "unconscionable."
"This is why we must defund hate and cut funding for ICE and [Customs and Border Protection's] violent and abusive immigration enforcement," the group wrote. "No human being should be treated this way."
Unconscionable. ICE is force-feeding immigrant detainees on hunger strike protesting their conditions.
— Bend the Arc: Jewish Action (@jewishaction) January 31, 2019
According to the non-profit advocacy group Freedom for Immigrants, at least 1,396 people have gone on hunger strike at immigrant detention facilities throughout the U.S. since 2015.
"By starving themselves, these men are trying to make public the very suffering that ICE is trying to keep hidden from taxpayers," Freedom for Immigrants director Christina Fialho told the AP.