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Sarah Hanson-Young: The government would be sending these babies to "living hell" on Nauru.

There are some families in Australia that have been struggling to sleep for days now. They’re too anxious to sleep because they’re waiting to find out if they’ll be sent back to the living hell of the immigration detention centre on Nauru in coming days.

On Wednesday, the High Court of Australia will decide whether the government has the legal right to lock up men, women and children on the tiny impoverished Pacific island of Nauru. There are 267 people whose future is riding on this decision and, tragically, 90 of those are children who are caught up in a political power play that their young minds can’t even comprehend.

Refugee children living in the community on Nauru held a devastating New Year’s protest.

Amongst those 90 children, there are 37 babies who Malcolm Turnbull wants to ship off to the prison island of Nauru. That’s 37 babies like young Samuel, whose parents only want for him to grow up healthy and strong. Or like Moubani, who was born in the Royal Darwin Hospital in December of 2014 and is now 13 months old and little Jasmine (pictured from R-L*), whose mother suffers from serious health issues and recently lapsed into a diabetic coma.

If the court decides on Wednesday that the Nauru centre is in fact legal and can stay open, it will then be left to just one person to decide their fate; the Prime Minister of Australia, Malcolm Turnbull. The PM will have to choose whether he wants to send these families, who have started to build a life in Australia, back to the dangerous and abusive environment on the island.

It’s extremely troubling to think that some of these women and children who are here were originally brought to Australia because they were sexually assaulted and raped on Nauru. Now the government has said that, as soon as they can, they will send them straight back to the tiny Pacific nation. The government has already failed to protect these people once and now Malcolm Turnbull is at serious risk of putting them in harm’s way a second time.

During the course of this legal challenge, the government passed new laws that were specifically designed to undermine the case. While that was disappointing to see, one indisputable fact remains; these centres are immoral and expose women and children to unacceptable abuse and sexual assault.

People seeking asylum come to Australia because we can protect them, offer them a better life and integrate them into our community. We should get on with establishing a fair and efficient system to do just that and stop terrorising them with the prospect of being sent back to the disastrous situation on Nauru.

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Senator Sarah Hanson-Young. Image: Supplied.

The children who are here have been settling into their new lives. They’ve been going to school, making friends and trying to build a life in safety. These children are on the path towards becoming productive, healthy and happy members of the community but now the government wants to rip them out of it and send them back to Nauru.

Many of the families who are facing deportation have spent the last few days trying to enjoy the freedom and safety that comes with living in Australia because they know that their time may be running out. For the sake of Samuel, Moubani, Jasmine and all of the other children who are facing the prospect of a desolate life on Nauru, I hope that Malcolm Turnbull will do the right thing and keep them here where they are safe.

Sarah Hanson-Young is a Greens Senator for South Australia.

*Not their real names. Images: supplied.

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