Doctors in Brisbane have declined to hand over a refugee baby for fear she will be deported to Nauru. The case has highlighted the plight of migrants kept in Australia's offshore immigration detention centers.
Australian media reported on Saturday that a Brisbane hospital was refusing to release a 1-year-old child in order to prevent her being returned to an immigration detention center on Nauru. A statement from Lady Cilento Children's Hospital said the girl "will only be discharged once a suitable home environment is identified."
"All decisions relating to a patient's treatment and discharge are made by qualified clinical staff, based on a thorough assessment of the individual patient's clinical condition and circumstances, and with the goal of delivering the best outcome," a hospital spokesperson was quoted by the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper as saying.
In a controversial decision earlier this month, the country's High Court ruled in favor of the government's policy to keep refugees in offshore camps such as the one on Christmas Island that saw riots in November over migrants frustrated with their treatment. Following the ruling, some 267 refugees, many of them children who had come to the mainland for medical treatment, were deported to the Nauru camp some 3,000 km (1,800 miles) off the coast of northeastern Australia.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Shen Narayanasamy, human rights director for the activist group Getup, had been in contact with the child's mother.
Her mother "feels safer now that the doctors are trying to protect her child from the clearly abusive conditions Asha faces upon return to detention," said Narayanasamy, using a pseudonym for the child.
The government of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has been under increasing international pressure to cease its policy of keeping migrants in far-away facilities.
Earlier this week, a doctor with the Department of Immigration and Border Protection told a Senate hearing in Canberra that when children are kept in such camps, it has "deleterious" consequences for their mental health.
Protestors gathered outside the hospital in Brisbane later on Saturday to show their support for the baby, her mother and the doctors. Holding signs that bore slogans such as "children suffer on Nauru" and "Malcolm Turnbull #LetThemStay," Australians showed their solidarity with asylum seekers.
Canberra has not officially commented on Asha's case specifically.