Australia transfers refugee families back to Nauru

June 18, 2015
A protest outside a Melbourne detention centre on June 16.

Early this month the federal government transferred its first infant back Nauru.

The five-month-old baby girl known as “Asha” (not her real name), her mother and father were forcibly transported from Melbourne's detention centre to Darwin detention centre and then to Nauru.

Refugee activist Siobhan Marren has been campaigning for Asha and her family’s return.

She told Green Left Weekly: “Asha is the first baby to be transferred back to offshore detention since the amendment to the Migration Act last December.

These amendments, backed by [Senator] Ricky Muir, reintroduced Temporary Protection Visas and allowed a number of babies born in Australia to stay. But the deal meant that babies born after December 4, 2014 would be taken to Nauru.”

The family suffered rough treatment at the hands of guards, and as a result of the stress she experienced, Asha's mother “Abhaya” (not her real name) has struggled to breastfeed Asha.

Asha was “given an infant formula against the wishes of her mother, to which she was allergic”, said Marren. “The baby suffered from gastro, and although the International Health and Medical Services have been told which formula Asha can digest, they have not given it to the family.

“Now Asha is eating — admittedly only rice milk. But her parents sent a text today saying that the rain has caused the tent to leak and has left all the bedding wet, meaning there is nowhere to lie down. Asha has also developed heat rashes since arriving.”

The ABC reported that Abhaya sent a former caseworker a text saying “please save my baby”. The caseworker, Natasha Blucher, told the ABC: "The mother first called me the Saturday night after the transfer. She was crying loudly and hysterically and it was really difficult to calm her down.

"I have spoken to her every couple of days since then. She simply repeats that she has no breast milk and cries, saying that her baby isn't safe.

"She says that it's been raining for days and the roof of the tent leaks ... but that during the day it's very hot and humid and the tent heats up.

[A Facebook group has been established, #saveasha, demanding the family’s return. A petition calling on the government to “Bring baby Asha back to Australia from Nauru ASAP and not transfer any other babies to Nauru” has also begun.]

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