Featured image via Twitter @Mums4Refugees.
It’s 9:30pm on Saturday night and right now, hundreds of people are gathering at Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital in Brisbane.
There’s a little girl inside, a one year old known as Baby Asha. She was born in Australia, but despite that, she was transferred to Nauru at five months of age because her parents are asylum seekers.
Asha is in Brisbane for treatment for burns she suffered on Nauru.
— Alycia Gawthorne (@AlyciaGawthorne) February 20, 2016
We understand baby Asha will remain in LCCH overnight at least. We ask those outside the hospital to respect other patients & staff.Advertisement
— Queensland Health (@qldhealthnews) February 20, 2016
— AMA President (@amapresident) February 20, 2016
Doctors at Lady Cilento are refusing to discharge her and have her returned to Nauru as they deem it an unsuitable environment.
The medical team are not alone in that assessment. The Australian Human Rights Commission has investigated and given a damning report on the conditions of Australia’s offshore immigration processing centres. Former Australia staff who worked in those centres have blown the whistle on conditions. There are almost daily reports from Manus Island and Nauru detailing the abuse asylum seekers the subject of, the lack of basic amenity, and poor access to health and medical treatment.
Despite the fact that Baby Asha has not yet been discharged from hospital care, the fact that the Queensland Government has backed the medical team and the fact that Asha was born in Australia, the Department of Immigration and Australia’s Border Force are preparing to return her to Nauru. Reports suggest that Border Force are preventing Baby Asha’s lawyers from contacting her family.
— Mums4Refugees (@Mums4Refugees) February 20, 2016
The hardline policy of the Government is that if we let even a tiny baby, born in Australia to parents fleeing persecution and oppression, stay here in Australia to be processed, people smugglers will open the floodgates and we’ll be inundated with asylum seekers.
Firstly, I find that very hard to believe. Secondly, even if that’s the case, surely we can welcome to our shores those who’ve come across the seas. Surely we can open our hearts and our homes to people who are simply seeking a better life free from war and persecution.
At the very least, we should be working with asylum seekers to process their arrival on our mainland, in conditions we can be assured meet basic levels for hygiene and health.
If I lived in Brisbane, I too would be sitting on the steps of Lady Cilento hospital in protest and in vigil. I would be preparing to be peacefully disobedient in order to help protect that child, in just the same way I would be for my own children.
My heartfelt plea to Malcolm Turnbull and Peter Dutton is this. Please. Let Baby Asha stay. Let all the children stay. Let out the children that we have kept on Manus Island and Nauru. Look into the eyes of your own children and ask, how are they any different. As parents, we are all responsible for the care of all children. As our Prime Minister and our Minister for Immigration you have a greater responsibility. Please don’t shirk it.