These articles are from Guardian Australia!
Protests over the proposed return of “Baby Asha” to Nauru, the fate of 267 asylum seekers also facing removal, and Australia’s offshore processing regime in general, continued across the country on Saturday.
Refugee advocates gathered outside Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital in Brisbane, where doctors have refused to discharge Asha because they do not believe Nauru will be a safe environment for her.
Meanwhile, the NSW conference of the Australian Labor party – which supports offshore processing – was picketed by demonstrators outside Sydney Town Hall.
And protesters placed 267 numbered paper dolls on the grass outside the north Brisbane office of the immigration minister, Peter Dutton, – one for each asylum seeker of the M68 cohort facing transfer to Nauru.
Included in the protest were 37 replica baby “onesies”, representing the 37 Australian-born children also facing removal.
The Guardian reported on Friday night that Asha – the Australian-born daughter of two asylum-seeker parents, who had first been taken to Nauru when five months old, faced a return there again, after receiving treatment for burns at the Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital.
Asha was accidentally burned on Nauru when boiling water spilled on her.
She has been treated but hospital staff have refused to discharge her because they say Nauru is not a “suitable home environment”.
“As is the case with every child who presents at the hospital, this patient will only be discharged once a suitable home environment is identified,” the hospital said.
“All decisions relating to a patient’s treatment and discharge are made by qualified clinical staff, based on a thorough assessment of the individual, delivering the best outcome.”
The Nauru detention centre has been the site of consistent reports of abuse of asylum seekers, including physical and sexual assaults.
Doctors refuse to discharge ‘Baby Asha’ because of fears for safety on Nauru
Asha’s first transfer to Nauru in June last year resulted in her contracting gastroenteritis and suffering nutrition problems because her mother’s breastmilk failed. Before that, the government had been warned by Save the Children that the move could be “potentially catastrophic”.
The detention centre has been significantly upgraded since June last year, and has transitioned to an “open” centre.
Protesters have staged a vigil for Asha outside the Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital since Friday night.
Addressing them on Saturday, Dr Richard Kidd of Doctors For Refugees said his organisation “absolutely supported” the stand of the hospital’s doctors.
He told Guardian Australia the immigration detention system was systemically flawed and “set up to harm people”, and that there had been consistent reports of children self-harming in detention.
“The evidence is incontrovertible that detention is terribly harmful for these children.”
Kidd said doctors were ethically bound, by their registration and their Hippocratic oath to “do no harm” and to ensure patients were not returned to dangerous situations.
“Doctors and nurses know that they cannot send a child back to a place where they face harm.”
Guardian Australia approached the department of immigration, as well as the office of Dutton, for comment on Friday night, and again on Saturday. There has been no response to questions.
Previously, Dutton has said he was “not going to send children back into harm’s way”.
But he has said the government must remain resolute over its policies regarding offshore processing and regional resettlement for “illegal maritime arrivals” in order to deter people-smuggling. Asha is classified as an “illegal maritime arrival”, despite being born in Australia, because of the immigration status of her parents.
The Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young, a long-standing opponent of offshore processing, said she admired the doctors’ defiance of the government’s plans to remove Asha, which she described as “cruel madness”.
“All strength to the medical professionals at the Brisbane hospital for acting in the best interests of this child.
“The doctors know that discharging this baby would send her and her family straight to the dangers of indefinite detention on Nauru.”