Texas detention centre stops force-feeding migrants

Border Patrol agentsImage source, Reuters
Image caption,
US Border Patrol agents from El Paso conduct training exercises near the Mexico border

A US immigration detention centre in the state of Texas has stopped force-feeding migrants, officials say.

Six men on hunger strike at a centre in El Paso were being fed forcibly through plastic nasal tubes.

Relatives said it was causing severe nosebleeds and vomiting, while the UN warned it could amount to torture.

Earlier this week a US district judge told Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to stop force feeding two of the men.

ICE officials told AP that a total of 12 detainees in El Paso were refusing food in protest against conditions at the detention centre.

The detainees, mainly from Cuba and India, say guards verbally abuse and threaten to deport them. They are also protesting against the length of time they are being detained while they await legal proceedings.

Another four men were on hunger strike in Miami, Phoenix, San Diego and San Francisco, ICE said last month.

What is force-feeding?

When a person is force-fed through the nose, a lubricated tube is pushed through the nostril until it reaches the throat. Liquid food is then pumped into the stomach.

ICE officials had said that the force-feeding was for the migrants' own health and safety. Going without food for long periods of time can leave people at risk of long-term physical and mental health conditions.

But the relatives of the detainees said that they were suffering more because of the force-feeding.

The World Medical Association has said that force feeding is "never ethically acceptable".

"Even if intended to benefit [the detainee], feeding accompanied by threats, coercion, force or use of physical restraints is a form of inhuman and degrading treatment," it says.

A spokeswoman for the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights (UNHCR) told AP this week that the detention centre could be in violation of the UN Convention Against Torture.