Deportation-threatened Baby Asha under guard in Australian hospital

Story highlights

  • Baby Asha is one of at least 267 asylum seekers who face possible deportation
  • Hospital says they will release child once a "suitable home environment" is found
  • Australia's top court recently ruled that running offshore detention centers were not illegal

(CNN)The baby at the heart of an immigration dispute in Australia continues to receive medical treatment under the watchful eyes of security guards at a hospital in the country where she was born -- but has been denied citizenship.

"She's effectively in detention inside the hospital," said Natasha Blucher, a long-time advocate for the family and activist with the Darwin Asylum Seeker Support and Advocacy Network.
The activist said guards from the company Serco, which is contracted by the Australian Immigration Department, were standing guard outside the hospital room where 12-month-old Asha and her Nepalese mother were staying.
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"The guards told me the hospital has been designated as a place of detention under Australian law," Blucher told CNN, speaking by telephone outside the Lady Cilento Childrens' Hospital in Brisbane.
Baby Asha is one of at least 267 asylum seekers who face possible deportation.  The move comes after Australia's High Court shot down an attempt to declare the country's controversial offshore immigrant detention program unconstitutional. 
Their legal avenues apparently blocked, human rights activists have embarked on a public awareness campaign using the hashtag #LetThemStay.
Last week, hospital administrators at Lady Cilento waded into the debate when they announced they would not release baby Asha from medical care.
"This patient will only be discharged once a suitable home environment is identified," the hospital announced in a press release on February 12.

Prison-like detention 

Asha and her family were residents of an Australian-financed detention center on the Pacific island of Nauru.  The prison-like facility currently houses at least 484 detainees, including 54 children.
The baby accidentally scalded herself after overturning a bowl full of hot water in her family's tent on January 25. The next day, she and her parents were airlifted to Australia for emergency medical care.
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This week, human rights lawyers claimed the Australian government was planning to scrap a 3-day warning for detainees before their deportation offshore. 
"Previously, the Government promised that it would give all 267 people 72 hours warning before deporting them," Tom Clarke, a spokesperson for the Human Rights Law Centre, told CNN.
"But in recent correspondence it has indicated that promise will soon cease to apply."
Since last week, dozens of activists have maintained a vigil outside the Lady Cilento Children's Hospital, demonstrating in support of Asha and the hospital.

Growing opposition

Australia's prime minister insists the immigration policy is being managed "with great care and with great compassion."
But, Malcom Turnbull added, his government was also "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."
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A growing number of voices both in and outside of Australia are challenging the government's tough line on illegal immigrants.
The top official in the Australian state of Victoria wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Turnbull offering to take in the possible deportees.
"There are infants in this group who were born in this country," wrote Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews.  "Sending them to Nauru will needlessly expose them to a life of physical end emotional trauma."
This week, New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key told journalists that on an annual basis, his government had offered to accept up to 750 asylum seekers from its Australian neighbor.
"They've always said no," said Key.