Australian Minister: 'Baby Asha' will be sent back to Nauru

Story highlights

  • 'Baby Asha' moved to a community center Monday morning
  • Australian Immigration Minister says baby will still be deported to Nauru
  • New Zealand's offer to take 150 asylum seekers rejected

(CNN)Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton says that "Baby Asha" will be sent back to an offshore government detention center on Nauru, after she was moved to a local community center Monday.

The infant, whose case sparked a heated debate on Australian immigration policy in recent weeks, was released to the community center from a Brisbane hospital where doctors had been treating her, leading supporters to hope that she would be permitted to remain in the country.
    However, on Monday morning, Dutton said, "We are not going to allow a message to get out that people can come to Nauru, come to Australia for medical assistance and then that will be their ticket out into Australian society. That is not going to happen."
    "I've been very clear that that's what will happen in this case," he told the Today Show.
    "We've provided the medical assistance that was required and then people go back to Nauru or we facilitate the passage back to country of origin."
    Dutton did not say when Asha's return to Nauru would take place.
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    His comments come after the hospital issued a statement Sunday saying an asylum seeker claim was still being considered.
    The hospital said the immigration department had advised that there was "no imminent plan for the family to return to Nauru and the family's case is under consideration."
    Doctors had previously refused to release Asha after she was sent to them for treatment, fearing she would be returned to the offshore camp notorious for its poor conditions. She was admitted to Lady Cilento Children's Hospital after suffering serious burns while in the government detention camp.

    New Zealand offer not on the table

    Dutton also ruled out sending "Baby Asha" or any of the other 267 asylum seekers facing deportation to New Zealand, which had offered to accept 150 people. Doing so would provide "back door entry to Australia," he said.
    New Zealand citizens can reside and work in Australia under special visa arrangements between the two countries. Last Friday, a new pathway for New Zealanders to gain Australian citizenship was also revealed.
    Several #LetThemStay rallies have been organized across the country in support of the asylum seekers.
    "We must be clear, this is only the beginning -- Dutton's already stated that Asha will be deported to Nauru so moving them this morning was only to try and take the wind out of our sails. Let's not give them the satisfaction," Refugee Action Collective Queensland, said via Facebook.
    Offshore Australian detention centers on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea and the island of Nauru hold around 1,500 people, with the average length of stay 445 days.

    "State-sanctioned form of child abuse"

    Australian Medical Association president Brian Owler on Sunday urged the government to release all children from both offshore and onshore detention centers slamming the camps as a "state-sanctioned form of child abuse."
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    Owler also called on the government to empower a body of independent clinical experts to investigate and report to Parliament on the welfare of refugees, and said the lack of transparency surrounding the camps was especially concerning.
    "The dehumanization of the asylum seekers by Minister Dutton and others referring to these people as 'illegals', combined with cloaking them in secrecy in offshore processing, has made it more difficult for the Australian public to identify with these people," Owler said.
    "Somehow, these asylum seekers seem less worthy. The Syrian asylum seekers that we can see arriving in Europe or waiting in Turkish refugee camps seem more human and in need of help."
    Journalists are not allowed into the detention centers. CNN spoke to children in detainment via phone and Skype who described bleak, prison-like conditions. A group of doctors and aid workers openly challenged a controversial bill which came into force last July which could jail those who speak out about center conditions without government approval.