Refugee Roulette:  Australia-born Babies Left Stateless and Homeless

Outcome of Federal Circuit Court Case re babies of asylum seekers born in Australia

Speaking from the Federal Circuit Court in Brisbane today, The Chair of the Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce, the Very Reverend Dr Peter Catt, said that “the Taskforce is greatly saddened by the decision of the Court in Brisbane which ruled that babies born in Australian immigration centres are essentially unauthorised maritime arrivals”.

Mothers in detention centres across Australia and offshore sat desperately awaiting the outcome of this case today. In just three weeks, Brisbane-born baby Ferouz will be 1 year old.  He will have spent his entire life behind bars, in detention.

The Minister for Immigration has argued that this baby, born in the Mater hospital in Brisbane and who has a Queensland birth certificate, is an “unauthorised maritime arrival.”  This argument was upheld by the Federal Circuit Court today.

Father Catt said that” we are now extremely fearful for the fate of 100 babies and their families, whose future lies in this decision today. They could be sent offshore in 24 hours time, to the hellish conditions we know exist on Nauru.”

The Minister wants to clear a desolate path so he can send this Brisbane-born baby and his family back to the detention camp on Nauru. A tiny little island country that regularly runs out of fresh water,  that has a ‘crisis of law’ and which sits on the brink of bankruptcy, and which is kept afloat financially only by the millions of Australia’s taxpayer dollars that are poured into it to house our refugees.

These babies and families will be sent to a detention camp built on a harsh coral and phosphate wasteland (photos attached), where there are serious allegations of physical and sexual abuse of children, of women being forced into sexual acts with guards in order to access water, and of medical negligence, amongst other inexcusable circumstances.

Father Catt said: “This is legal gymnastics. It is deeply disturbing that the Minister for Immigration has so desperately sought to deny baby Ferouz a fair chance at having his claim for protection and possible Australian citizenship heard.  How can we rationally call babies born in Australia ‘boat people’?”

Father Catt said that “even if given refugee status and released, baby  Ferouz and his family will remain stateless. Nauru has said it won’t resettle anyone longer than five years. So we consign baby Ferouz to an early childhood of detention and deprivation, and then what happens when he comes of school age?”

Misha Coleman, Executive Officer of the Taskforce said that “when I met this family in the Brisbane Detention Centre, mum Latifa had just been separated by the Australian Government  from her newborn baby, Ferouz. Ferouz’ dad had been on the run since the Burmese army killed his own father when he was 7 years old.  How much more do we need to put this family through?” she asked today.

Media Inquiries: Misha Coleman, 0428 399 739, Executive Officer, Churches Refugee Taskforce.

Photos of the “Nursery Camp” on Nauru, where baby Ferouz will be sent if the Palmer/Morrison Bill goes through (Migration and Maritime Powers Legislation Amendment (Resolving the Asylum Legacy Caseload) Bill 2014

Churches Refugee Taskforce Press Release – Refugee Roulette  (for photos of Nauru Nursery Camp attached)