Australia to send refugee Baby Asha back to Nauru

Australian government decides to send refugee Baby Asha back to refugee camp in Nauru

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Supporters gathered in front of a hospital in Brisbane Australia where doctors are refusing to release a baby girl to face deportation.

A refugee baby named Asha, brought from a Pacific detention camp for healthcare purposes is expected to be returned to the camp as a disincentive factor to people-smugglers, regardless of the protests from doctors and others.

Due to Australian government’s tough immigration policy, refugees arriving by boat hoping to find shelter in Australia are sent to camps in Papua New Guinea and Nauru until their refugee applications are fulfilled.

They are blocked from resettlement in Australia even if they are accepted as refugees.

The case of one-year-old Asha, the daughter of one of the Nepalese refugee families, was brought to Brisbane suffering from burns last month, prompted a stand-off with doctors and a week of protests outside the Lady Cilento Children's Hospital.

Medical staff had refused to release Asha, until a suitable home environment had been guaranteed.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said she had now been moved to community detention, where refugees wait for their applications to be processed live within the community. Usually they are allowed to move around freely.

"She's in community detention and obviously support will be provided to the family," Dutton told the Nine Network.

Nevertheless, he also added that government would not take a step back from its policy of returning the baby to offshore detention right after medical and legal issues had been settled.

Refugee attorneys claimed that she was secretly being moved from the hospital at 4am to an unknown location and the family’s lawyer Daniel Webb, member of the Human Rights Law Centre, said they were initially unable to speak with the family.

"It's not OK that the government has prevented us from speaking with our client for the last three days," he said after speaking to the child's mother by telephone on Monday, also adding that it was a matter of basic fairness and due process that vulnerable people were able to speak with their lawyers.

"It's been an emotional few days for the family. They are relieved and thankful that they aren't languishing on Nauru or locked up in a detention centre," Webb said in a statement.

State governments, churches and even New Zealand have offered refuge to Asha and the 266 other refugees also in Australia for medical care.

Yet, Dutton claims this would only encourage people-smugglers.

"I've been very clear, the government's been very clear from day one, that we have a responsibility not only to this baby, but to the babies who drowned at sea before and also potentially to babies that will drown again if the people-smugglers got back into business," he said.

"So there is a much bigger issue at play here and, as I say, as a country we should be proud because we bring in record numbers of refugees through the UN and through the Special Humanitarian Programme."

"But we are not going to allow a message to get out that people can come to Nauru, come to Australia for medical assistance and then that will be their ticket out into Australian society. That is not going to happen."

The Australian government has long maintained its hardline policy, which also includes turning boats back, claiming it has prevented deaths at sea and brought security to its borders.

At least 1,200 people died trying to reach Australia by boat between 2008 and 2013, under the previous Labor government.

TRTWorld and agencies