Refugee baby to remain in Australia

Students hold photographs of a baby Asha during a protest outside the Lady Cilento Children's Hospital in Brisbane, on Feb 18, 2016.
Students hold photographs of a baby Asha during a protest outside the Lady Cilento Children's Hospital in Brisbane, on Feb 18, 2016.PHOTO: EPA

SYDNEY • Australia was set to allow an asylum-seeker’s baby to stay in the country instead of being returned to a remote detention camp yesterday, in what rights advocates call a victory after a public outcry.

Under Canberra’s immigration policy, asylum-seekers arriving by boat are sent to camps in Papua New Guinea and Nauru, where they are held indefinitely while their refugee applications are processed.

The one-year-old baby, named Asha, was held on Nauru with her Nepalese parents before being brought to the Australian mainland for medical treatment last month.

She was due to be sent back to the camp after a court ruling in favour of the detention policy, but the hospital caring for her refused to release her until a “suitable home environment is identified”.

Hundreds of Australians held an overnight vigil at the hospital, blocking traffic in a bid to halt Asha’s removal.

The protest drew wide attention, with the Twitter hashtag #BabyAsha trending worldwide.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said yesterday that Asha and her parents would be sent to community detention from Brisbane’s Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital.

“We are proposing that baby Asha... will go into community detention as have, as I say, 83 others living in the community who are in Australia for medical assistance,” he told reporters in Brisbane.

Under community detention, asylum-seekers waiting for their applications to be processed live within the community and are usually allowed to move around freely.
Mr Dutton said that, if the family’s refugee claims were rejected, they would be sent home or to Nauru.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 22, 2016, with the headline 'Refugee baby to remain in Australia'. Print Edition | Subscribe