Baby Asha: Doctors refuse to discharge refugee child from hospital because it is 'not safe' to take her back to Nauru

The one-year-old is said to be recovering after suffering burns on the island last month

Caroline Mortimer
Friday 12 February 2016 22:03
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People protesting in Melbourne in favour of granting asylum to a group of refugees on Nauru
People protesting in Melbourne in favour of granting asylum to a group of refugees on Nauru

An Australian hospital is refusing to discharge the one-year-old daughter of asylum seekers who is facing an immediate removal to Nauru because they say the detention centre is not safe.

The little girl, who is known by the pseudonym of “Baby Asha”, was first moved to the notorious island detention centre in June last year at just five months old - despite a warning from Save the Children that it could be “potentially catastrophic”.

Asha was moved back to Australia, where she was born to refugee parents, several weeks ago to receive treatment for burns at the Lady Cilento hospital in Brisbane.

It is believed she was burned by boiling water which was accidentally spilled on her, the Guardian reports.

The severity of her injuries meant she could not be treated on Nauru, but she had since recovered.

But the doctors who treated her say they cannot let her leave the hospital because the environment on Nauru is too dangerous for her.

A spokesperson for the hospital confirmed a 12-month-old girl from the Nauru detention centre was currently receiving treatment.

They said: “As is the case with every child who presents at the hospital, this patient will only be discharged once a suitable home environment is identified.

“All decisions relating to a patient’s treatment and discharge are made by qualified clinical staff, based on a thorough assessment of the individual, delivering the best outcome.”

The area of the detention centre where Asha is due to be sent, Area 9 of RPC3, is reportedly infested with rats and the tents leak.

The Guardian reports that the baby developed gastroenteritis within a week of arriving at the camp after her mother’s breastmilk failed due to stress and she could not tolerate the formula she was given.

Australia’s immigration department has said there is a lower level of risk than has been reported based on an assessment by Transfield Services - the private contractor in charge of the camps.

It says conditions have improved since Asha arrived, with inmates now allowed to move around the island.

The island of Nauru which doctors say is too dangerous for Asha to return to

Shen Narayanasamy, the human rights director for the campaign group Getup, who is in contact with Asha’s family, said: “The mother feels safer now that the doctors are trying to protect her child from the clearly abusive conditions Asha faces upon return to detention.

“But Border Force has overruled decisions of medical experts in the past, so the family remains very scared they will be secretly snatched from the hospital and returned to detention.”

The immigration minister Peter Dutton could not be reached for comment on Friday but has previously said he was “not going to send children back into harm’s way”.

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