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Twenty-one days old and heading back to hell?

Latifa and her newborn Ferouz

A newborn baby in court.

A sick newborn baby.

With his mother and father fighting to keep him in a country that will give him a basic right to decent medical care.

A Government determined to send them back to hell.

The fight to keep an asylum seeker family and their newborn baby in Australia continued in a Brisbane Federal Circuit Court court yesterday.

The newborn, Ferouz (or Faris) remains weak, has trouble breastfeeding and his mother is recovering from a caesarean birth and suffers from diabetes.

His 31-year-old mother, Latifa is an asylum seeker from Myanmar who is currently living in a detention facility called Brisbane Immigration Transit Accommodation. Before coming to Australia, Latifa spent almost a third of her life living in a refugee camp in Malaysia.

Mamamia previously wrote on the plight of Latifa and her husband Niza.

When she initially gave birth to the premature baby at Brisbane’s Mater Hospital she was separated from him and sent back to the detention centre. To much community outrage it was reported that she was only allowed to see her baby for six hours a day.

At the time Mamamia said:

“Latifa and her family came here seeking our country’s help.

But instead they have been met with seemingly inhumane treatment. For political purposes, to prove a point that they are ‘tougher’ on border protection than anyone before them, this Government have separated a distraught mother from her sick child.

The Coalition’s Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has defended the Government’s decision to keep the mother and her newborn son apart. According to a statement released by a spokesperson, it is “common practice” for mothers to not stay overnight in the hospital when a child is sick.

The horrors that this family have already been through are unimaginable.

And today our Government has not aided their suffering, they have added to it.”

Protestors outside court yesterday

In court yesterday the family’s lawyers, who are acting pro-bono, said they should not be sent back to Nauru because their baby boy was born in Australia and the mother and baby are not well.

Lawyers for the Federal Government say there is no question the family will have to leave but no decision has been made about the timing.

It comes at the same time that the United Nation’s High Commissioner for Refugees released a report calling on the Federal Government to stop sending asylum-seeker children to the detention centres. It singled out the Nauru centre in particular, saying it is rat-infested, cramped, and very hot.

“It’s not appropriate for families and children to be transferred to Nauru or Papua New Guinea,” Richard Towle of the UN refugee agency said.

The newborn has since been moved from the hospital to the Brisbane detention centre with the rest of his family. Latifa has two other children – aged four and seven.

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Immigration Minister Scott Morrison gave an undertaking last week that they will not be sent back to Nauru until medical clearance is given.

The family’s lawyers argued they should not be sent back until there is a full hearing of their case, including the issues of the baby’s citizenship and his health problems, and they want the decision put on hold until that happens.

The Lawyers representing Latifa and her family told the ABC that:

“Our view is that the family has the right under Australian law to present independent medical opinion as to the state of their health and the likely impact on their health of being removed to Nauru.

“Secondly, we believe that the baby, Faris, having been born on the Australian mainland, is entitled to apply for Australian citizenship and for a protection visa and that the Australian Government has no right whatsoever to remove him.”

Misha Coleman, from the Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce, visited the family yesterday and says the taskforce does not believe it is safe to send them to Nauru.

“We’re very, very worried about its life and its ability to thrive and recover in a plastic tent with one bucket of water to last for the day in incredibly unsanitary circumstances,” she said to the ABC.

In a statement she said, “We are concerned that this baby may be taken away in the middle of the night. This is a baby who was born prematurely, and who is very reliant on formula and bottles for nutrition. Any Australian mother knows how crucial it is to be able to sterilize bottles and teats properly so that you don’t give the baby a gastrointestinal illness.”

She called on the Federal Government to look to the rights of this child born on Australian soil.

“We should all, whatever we think about asylum seeker policy, we should all respect the rights of that baby and the family in Australia.”

In a heartbreaking twist of fate last week, Myanmar, Latifa’s home country rejected a UN Resolution that urged them to curb violence against Muslims and to grant citizenship to Rohingyans.

If this resolution had been adopted the family would have been able to simply go home. Instead they are even more adrift.

Now though, they have no choice but to put their fate in the hands of the Government and Australia’s legal system.

The hearing has now been adjourned until Friday.

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