REFUGEE supporters in Brisbane have welcomed the government’s decision to move a baby asylum seeker into a
community detention, but will fight the plan to move her offshore.
Immigration minister Peter Dutton announced at a press conference last week Baby Asha would be allowed to stay in a Brisbane community detention facility.
But Baby Asha, who was born in Australia to Nepalese asylum seeker parents and admitted to Lady Cilento hospital after being burnt by boiling water, would eventually be placed back in detention on Nauru.
In a radio interview with the ABC, Mr Dutton confirmed that once Baby Asha’s medical situation was “resolved” she would be sent back to Nauru detention centre.
Mr Dutton said Australian immigration laws meant anyone not found to be a genuine refugee would need to return to their country of origin but “if that’s not possible…then (they) go to Nauru”.
The decision follows 10 days of protests outside Lady Cilento hospital where doctors refused to discharge the baby until the government proposed a safe and secure alternative.
Queensland Council of Unions general secretary Ros McLennan said the protest, which attracted thousands including Catholic supporters into Brisbane city, was a “victory for people power”.
“That and that alone is what forced the government to change their minds,” Ms McLennan said.
Ms McLennan said Baby Asha’s family had seen a move into community detention “as a possible and welcome eventuality”.
She said the groups who attended the protests would continue to “fight for a guarantee from the government” that Baby Asha would stay in Brisbane.
Ms McLennan said the “threat to a mother and her baby” had changed the conversation around “the rights of people seeking safety in a community”.
“If the shoe was on the other foot and I was in Syria, or Nepal like Baby Asha’s parents, I would scoop up my children and run with them.”
She said Mr Dutton’s statement that government had always intended the family to move to community detention was “a barefaced lie”.
Baby Asha and her parents are among the 267 refugees who may be deported to Nauru and Manus Island after the high court’s ruling that offshore detention was within Australia’s rights.
Refugee Action Collective spokesman Mark Gillespie said the waiting period was traumatising the refugees, including Baby Asha and her family.
“The threat of being sent back to Nauru hangs over them,” he said.
Brisbane Catholic Anita Hendrie, who attended four days of protests including an interfaith vigil for Baby Asha, said it was a good result to put her in community detention centre but would continue to protest against placing her offshore.
“I’m happy she is in community detention for now as it’s better than in Nauru but it’s heartbreaking to know she will go back there,” Ms Hendrie said.
“It’s heartbreaking for this to happen to any human being let alone a baby or child.”
Ms Hendrie, who hosted a dinner for refugees in Petrie Terrace yesterday, said her involvement at the protest outside Lady Cilento hospital moved an asylum seeker friend “to tears”.
“It means so much to them to see people fighting for their cause,” she said.
“When you meet these people, it’s not just about numbers or what’s getting funded by tax payer’s dollars but what they’ve gone through to be here.”
She called on Catholics to give up their energy and time to support refugees and asylum seekers in this Year of Mercy.
“The dignity of the human person is at the heart of all principles of Catholic Social Teaching and we have a responsibility as Catholics to uphold that dignity, especially for those most vulnerable in our society, and especially in this Year of Mercy,” Ms Hendrie said.
Baby Asha was born in Australia to Nepalese asylum seekers, but was removed to Nauru detention centre at five months.
There is an investigation into how Baby Asha was burnt in her parent’s tent.
By Emilie Ng