Australian hospital refuses to discharge asylum baby

Activists hold placards and chant slogans as they protest outside the offices of the Australian Immigration Department in Sydney, Australia, in this file picture taken February 4, 2016. Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Protests have been held around Australia in recent weeks against the government's offshore detention policy

Protesters have gathered at an Australian hospital to support doctors that have refused to discharge a baby facing deportation to a detention camp.

The Lady Cilento Hospital in Brisbane said the year-old girl will not be released "until a suitable home environment is identified".

The daughter of asylum-seeker parents suffered serious burns at an immigration camp on Nauru island.

The government says its controversial offshore detention policy is necessary.

It is aimed at preventing asylum seekers trying to reach Australia on unseaworthy boats.

Ellen Roberts, a spokeswoman for campaign group GetUp, said protesters were "standing in solidarity" with the baby's parents - who are in Brisbane - and the hospital.

"We are calling on [Prime Minister] Malcolm Turnbull to do the right thing and let the family stay," she told Reuters.

Image copyright Brent Cue
Image caption The hospital's decision has placed additional pressure on the government

More than 500 people are currently held on Nauru, a tiny island in the South Pacific.

In September, a senate committee report said conditions there were "not adequate, appropriate or safe" and that allegations of rape and abuse should be investigated.

The centre's facilities have reportedly improved and asylum seekers are now allowed to freely move around the island.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has not commented on the girl's specific case.

"All decisions relating to a patient's treatment and discharge are made by qualified clinical staff, based on a thorough assessment of the individual patient's clinical condition and circumstances," the hospital said in a statement.

Any child who is taken to hospital is only released if a suitable environment exists, it said.

The baby suffered the burns after boiling water was accidentally spilled on her in the tent she lived in with her parents, the ABC reports.

Earlier this month, the High Court upheld the constitutionality of offshore detention, allowing the government to deport 267 people, including 37 babies, who were brought to Australia for medical treatment.

Their cases have sparked national protests under the banner #LetThemStay.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The state premier of Victoria offered to take in the 267 people facing deportation

Ten Anglican and Uniting church leaders offered their churches as a refuge for those facing deportation.

Victoria's leader Daniel Andrews also wrote to Mr Turnbull offering to settle the asylum seekers in his state, a position that received the support of several other state premiers.

Mr Turnbull has said deportations of the group will be decided on a case by case basis and that they will be treated "with compassion".

Australia and asylum

  • The number of asylum seekers travelling to Australia by boat rose sharply in 2012 and early 2013. Scores of people have died making the journey.
  • To stop the influx, the government adopted tough measures intended as a deterrent.
  • Everyone who arrives is detained. Under a new policy, they are processed in Nauru and Papua New Guinea. Those found to be refugees will be resettled in PNG, Nauru or Cambodia.
  • The government has also adopted a policy of tow-backs, or turning boats around.

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