Around 170 of the 381 asylum seekers the Australian government sent to a makeshift detention camp on the island of Nauru launched a hunger strike Thursday to demand that they be allowed to pursue their applications in Australia.

The asylum seekers are living in tents.

"This is a clear message that we are not happy here, we want to go back from this hell to Australia and we request to the Australia government to start our processing," the hunger strikers said in a statement sent to Australian media.

Australian lawmakers approved on Wednesday a measure to build permanent detention centers in Nauru and the Papua New Guinea island of Manus for asylum seekers intercepted at sea.

Every year, thousands of undocumented migrants take to the ocean in ramshackle boats in a bid to reach Australia. Nearly 1,000 such asylum seekers died en route between October 2001 and June 2012, according to the Australian government.

The U.N. Refugee Agency has criticized Australia's policy of diverting asylum seekers to third countries. EFE