Morrison: Offshore Camp Can Handle A Profoundly Disabled Child
By Nick OlleNovember 15, 2013
A profoundly disabled four-year-old Tamil asylum seeker in a Brisbane detention facility will be transferred offshore along with her father, probably to Nauru, The Global Mail has learned.
The family say they have been told by immigration officials that they will be sent offshore for processing, according to sources.
The Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Scott Morrison, has reiterated that there would be “no exceptions” to the offshore processing of asylum seekers who arrived in Australia by boat after July 19, 2013.
The minister said: “It doesn’t matter whether you’re a child, it doesn’t matter whether you’re pregnant, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a woman, it doesn’t matter if you’re an unaccompanied minor, it doesn’t matter if you’ve got a health condition – if you are fit enough to get on a boat, then you can expect you’re fit enough to end up in offshore processing.”
Asked if he was satisfied that the Nauru detention facility was suitable for disabled children, the minister added: “Where there are any particular medical issues on any particular case, then appropriate care is provided for those conditions.”
“I’ve been in facilities where there have been disabled people, and that was occurring under the previous government, particularly on Manus Island, and it continues to occur now so appropriate care and facilities are put in place,” Morrison said.
However, Amnesty has described conditions at Nauru as deplorable and a woman with more than 40 years of nursing experience likened the centre, where she worked for three weeks, to a concentration camp.
The Tamil girl was injured in utero by shrapnel following a bomb blast in her native Sri Lanka, according to sources who know her and describe her as “heavily disabled”; she is confined to a chair and that she “can’t walk, can’t talk”.
A source who regularly visits the girl and her father at the Brisbane Immigration Transit Accommodation (BITA) facility, explains that the pair were separated from the girl’s mother and two siblings as the family attempted to board a boat to Australia. The girl was “strapped to her father”.
“The army intercepted the mother and she was left behind with two little children,” the source says, adding that the mother was jailed in Sri Lanka after the incident but has since been released.
“So he’s here with a heavily disabled child. She’s bright-eyed and beautiful. She turns around and looks everywhere. The other day I thought I’d just hold her hand for a bit and she held my fingers with a really strong grip and I was able to pull her little chair with me just holding her fingers. She thought that was wonderful.”
Another asylum seeker now in BITA was caught in the same bomb blast in Sri Lanka; her name is Suthakaran. “She was also pregnant at the time. Her husband was killed in the bombing, and she is now confined to a wheelchair,” the source says.
“The concern is [immigration authorities] are going to use the story of [the disabled child] and the woman in a wheelchair to say they’re just looking for medical assistance and they’re really not refugees.”
Refugee activists understand that Suthakaran is likely to be deported back to Sri Lanka.
Human rights lawyer and refugee advocate Julian Burnside, who visited Nauru in June this year, says he seriously doubts that medical facilities in Nauru are sufficient to deal with a seriously disabled child.
“It is not set up to deal with any significant health problems,” he says. “The health system there is not really effective even for their own people, as you know it is a tiny country with a tiny population and it’s bankrupt.”
“It is contrary to ordinary instinct that shifting a child to Nauru with one parent is going to be in the child’s best interests.”