No immediate transfer of babies to Pacific detention camps
Twenty six babies born in Australia to asylum seeker parents will not be transferred to Nauru or Manus detention centres this weekend.
Twenty six babies born in Australia to asylum seeker parents will not be transferred to Canberra's Nauru or Papua New Guinea detention centres this weekend.
The Minister of Immigration Scott Morrison provided an undertaking not to send the babies offshore after law firm Maurice Blackburn threatened urgent court action.
The firm's principal, Jacob Varghese, says the babies and their families are allowed to stay until a court decision on another baby, known as Ferouz, is made next month.
The High Court will decide whether baby Ferouz is an unathorised maritime arrival or a citizen.
Jacob Varghese from law firm Maurice Blackburn spoke to Indira Moala.
JACOB VARGHESE: The government wrote to us last night and gave us an undertaking that the babies and their immediate families will be kept in Australian detention centres until another court case has been determined. So that means the families can have a little bit of relief that they are not going to be shipped to Nauru or Manus Island in the near future.
INDIRA MOALA: That's great news. And so is that until the Ferouz judgment comes through?
JV: Yeah, that's exactly right. So it's sort of a legal point - it's about whether or not babies who are born in Australia to asylum seekers parents are unauthorised maritime arrivals within the meaning of the act. So the law has provided that people who come by boat can now be sent directly to Nauru or Manus Island. But the question is whether a baby who is born here came by boat, and we say just as a matter of fact, they didn't. They came by being born here. The government might argue something differently based on some technical reading of the law, but we think that facts are facts. These babies just did not arrive by boat so they are not eligible to be sent to Nauru or Manus Island.
IM: So your next action in terms of the case of these 26 babies depends on the Ferouz judgment?
JV: Yeah, that's right. So we'll be putting all our effort into winning that case and establishing that point of principle. And then we will see what can be done for the other 26 families.
IM: In the case that you may not win the Ferouz case, what will happen to these 26 babies?
JV: Look, it's not clear. I mean, I still think we are going to win the Ferouz judgment, so we're not thinking that far ahead in those terms. But I would say this though. I think the government always has the power to do the right thing. And they don't have to send these babies to Nauru or Manus Island. The minister has discretion to be the compassionate, and we think that babies shouldn't be in detention fullstop, but they certainly shouldn't be in detention in Manus Island or Nauru.
IM: Just to clarify, can we define babies here? So is this children under the age of two?
JV: Yeah, they're all under 9 months actually.
IM: Is there a current policy on the care and protection of babies and young children in detention centres, do they have access to medical care if needed?
JV: One of our criticisms is that even just on Christmas Island itself there's not sufficient health services to look after newborn babies. So they are seen by a medical service but they don't have access to specialists or the other type of allied health professionals that in New Zealand or Australia we would take for granted for our babies. It's different in different places just because of the availability of additional services. Christmas Island, if you need to see a specialist, a dermatologist for example, because a lot of these kids have serious heat rashes from the humidity at Christmas Island, you can't just get a booking with a dermatologist easily. Now if you're in detention in Melbourne or Adelaide or Perth, then those sorts of arrangements can be made. It's still not ideal because you have to go through a bureaucratic system to get someone to look after your baby. And new parents are always anxious to look after their babies, just imagine how much worse it is when you can't just take care of it yourself, you have to go through some bureaucratic rigmarole. But at least in those capital cities, you know, it's possible.
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