Australian hospital refuses to discharge asylum seeker baby

04:03 - Source: CNN
Child refugees detained on Nauru Island talk to CNN

Story highlights

Hospital says they will release child once a "suitable home environment" is found

The nation's top court recently ruled that running offshore detention centers were not illegal

Conditions in offshore detention camps have been described as deplorable

CNN  — 

The fate of a hospitalized baby facing deportation is still up in the air after Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said his government would not “imperil the health or security of any individual.”

A Brisbane, Queensland hospital is refusing to discharge the one-year-old child in question, known as “Baby Asha”, over concerns she would be sent back to poor living conditions in a government offshore detention center.

A hospital spokesperson told CNN that she will only be discharged “once a suitable home environment is identified.”

“Baby Asha” suffered serious burns in a camp on the island of Nauru, around 2,100 miles from Australia, according to advocacy group, GetUp. The organization has been working with the family, who are seeking asylum in Australia.

Immigration authorities have yet to make a decision on the case.

"Baby Asha" was sent to Australia for medical treatment but may be deported.

“We’re managing this policy with great care, and with great compassion,” Turnbull said. “And at the same time, doing everything we can to ensure that we do not do anything or say anything which will be used by the people smugglers to get more vulnerable people onto those boats.”

Queensland Minister for Health Cameron Dick said that he “strongly support doctors in our hospitals to make the right clinical decisions.”

Over the weekend, crowds gathered to show their support for the child.

Protesters for the #LetThemStay campaign stage rally for "Baby Asha" on Sunday, February 14, 2016.

Two weeks ago, Australia’s top court ruled that the government’s role in funding and participating in offshore detention was not a breach of law. It means that over 260 people who had been sent to Australia for medical care, such as “Baby Asha”, are likely to be sent back.

According to UNICEF, the group includes women who have been sexually assaulted, 54 children and 37 babies who were born in Australia.

The controversial decision has prompted the #LetThemStay campaign, with churches declaring they will offer sanctuary to asylum seekers despite the likelihood of criminal penalty, according to Get Up.

Like a prison

Critics have slammed conditions in Australian detention centers on Nauru, and Manus Island in Papua New Guinea.

A 2015 Australian Senate inquiry reported that the camps had poor hygiene, provided little educational opportunities and also documented several instances of sexual assault.

Another report from the Australian Human Rights Commission concluded that “children on Nauru are suffering from extreme levels of physical, emotional, psychological and developmental distress.”

Current and former child detainees at the Nauru camp described it to CNN as a prison.

More than 1,400 people are being held in immigration detention on the islands while they wait for their asylum claims to be processed. Some have been there for more than three years. The average length of detention, according to the latest government figures, is 445 days.

Last July, a group of healthcare workers and educators penned an open letter to the Australian government challenging a new bill that could put whistleblowers in jail for disclosing the conditions in detention centers.

READ: Bill entrenches secrecy around Australia’s asylum seeker regime