21 Feb 2016

Australia relents over baby deportation

7:00 pm on 21 February 2016

The Australian government has announced that a baby being treated for burns in a Brisbane hospital will not be sent back to an asylum seekers' detention camp on the Pacific island of Nauru.

Protestors in Sydney ask the government not to send asylum-seekers back to Nauru

Protestors in Sydney ask the government not to send asylum-seekers back to Nauru. Photo: AFP / William West

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said the one-year-old girl, known as Asha, and her mother would be released into community detention in Australia.

Mr Dutton said immigration officials had reached an agreement with doctors that Asha and her family would be transferred to community detention in Brisbane, but that they would receive no special treatment and may end up back in Nauru if they were not deemed to be legitimate refugees.

A short time after Mr Dutton faced the media, Queensland Health announced the hospital would discharge Asha "within the next 24 hours".

Children's Health Queensland chief executive Fionnagh Dougan said the Immigration Department advised there was "no imminent plan for the family to return to Nauru".

"Children's Health Queensland is currently working with the department on finalising arrangements for the safe relocation of the family," Ms Dougan said.

"In recent days, the child and her mother moved to family accommodation within the hospital because the patient no longer required treatment in the burns unit."

Asha's fate has been the focal point of a 10-day protest outside the hospital, with dozens of protesters continuing to rally outside the building's entrance today.

Australia's policy on asylum seekers has been widely criticised.

Previously, the government said it would stand firm on its asylum seeker policy amid the protests over the child's impending deportation to Nauru.

It argues that its offshore detention policy is necessary, and aimed at preventing asylum seekers trying to reach Australia on unseaworthy boats.

Australia's High Court upheld Australia's asylum policy as legal under the country's constitution in a decision handed down at the beginning of February.

- BBC / ABC

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