Maurice Blackburn acts to protect more Australian born babies in detention
15 April 2014
Media Contact - Amanda Tattam
Law firm Maurice Blackburn has today written to the Federal Government seeking urgent undertakings that it will not remove 26 Australian-born babies to offshore detention centres at Nauru or Manus Island.
Two lawyers from the firm have just returned from Christmas Island where the largest group of Australian-born babies are detained. They have met with asylum seekers who fear that they and their Australian-born babies could end up in even more inhospitable conditions in off shore detention at any time. The UN has described the conditions in off shore detention as "inhumane" and "not fit for children".
Jacob Varghese, principal from Maurice Blackburn, said the babies' parents had requested urgent legal assistance as they are at risk of imminent offshore dispatch.
"It is bad enough that these newborn babies are in indefinite detention from the moment they are born. Even on Christmas Island they lack the basic medical services newborns should receive. Their parents are concerned that things will be even worse on Nauru or Manus Island."
Under changes to the Migration Act last year, any people who arrived in Australia by boat after 19 July 2013 can be removed offshore. "However, these babies did not arrive by boat - they were born here," Mr Varghese said.
Maurice Blackburn is already involved in the "Baby Ferouz" case, High Court litigation seeking to prevent the removal of an Australian-born baby. That case will establish whether babies born in Australia are "unauthorised maritime arrivals" and therefore can be sent to Nauru or Manus Island.
"At the very least, the Government ought to agree that no Australian-born babies will be sent offshore until the Baby Ferouz case has been determined. That is what we are asking for these families," Mr Varghese said.
"The detainees told us that other families have been removed from Christmas Island in the middle of the night, without the chance to obtain legal advice. They are all understandably worried about getting that ominous knock on the door before dawn.
"There is no reason that families should be treated with such cruelty. They are entitled to legal advice and we are demanding that they be given time to get it.
"These families require legal assistance. It falls to firms like Maurice Blackburn to act pro bono just so that these families have some access to justice, which is their right," he said.
"I have met these families on Christmas Island and they just want the best for their babies. They feel helpless and powerless about their indefinite detention."