Australia asylum baby 'will be sent back to Nauru'

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Media captionProtests have taken place outside Brisbane's Lady Cilento Hospital

A baby at the heart of an asylum row in Australia will be sent with her mother to an offshore camp on the Pacific island of Nauru, the government says.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said the girl had been discharged from hospital into community detention.

But he stressed she would be able to stay in Australia only temporarily.

Doctors had refused to discharge the one-year-old, who was being treated for serious burns, unless she was provided a "suitable home environment".

The standoff sparked protests outside Brisbane's Lady Cilento Hospital in support of the doctors.

The girl known as Asha, who is Nepalese, will now stay with her family, including her mother, in community detention in Brisbane. An immigration officer will monitor the family and their movements will be restricted.

Mr Dutton said she would be sent to the offshore processing centre on Nauru once her medical treatment was complete and the legal issues surrounding the circumstances of her injury resolved.

"We are not going to allow people smugglers to get out a message that if you seek assistance in an Australian hospital, that somehow that is your formula to becoming an Australian citizen," he told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

"I couldn't be any clearer - once the medical assistance has been provided and the legal issues resolved, people will go back to Nauru."

Australia and asylum

Image copyright AFP
Image caption The island nation of Nauru holds migrants while Australia processes their asylum claims
  • 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 the policy, asylum seekers are processed offshore at centres such as Nauru
  • The government has also adopted a policy of tow-backs, or turning boats around

Why is Australia's asylum policy controversial?

Mr Dutton denied the move was prompted by the protests and said it was pre-planned.

Earlier, Mr Dutton had told reporters: "The advice I have received is the doctors from the hospital have said the baby's treatment has concluded and they would be happy for the baby to go out into community detention.

"That's what we have proposed all along but at some point, if people have matters finalised in Australia, they will be returning to Nauru."

But refugee advocates hailed baby Asha's release into the community as a victory against the government's hard-line detention policy.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption The detention and likely deportation of Asha sparked many protests

In early February, the High Court upheld Australia's asylum policy as legal under the country's constitution.

The ruling paved the way for around 267 people, including 37 babies, to be deported to Nauru.

Mr Dutton also reiterated Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's rejection of an offer from New Zealand to take in a quota of asylum seekers.

"The deal that was struck was a back-door option to come to Australia," he said on Monday.

"It was a failed proposal under former prime minister Julia Gillard and that is why it is not acceptable to us in the form that Julia Gillard brokered it."

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